What is high blood pressure?

High blood pressure, known as hypertension, is an elevated reading in one’s blood pressure. Blood pressure is a measure of the force of the blood as it moves through the arteries of our body. When reading or measuring blood pressure, the ‘top’ number is called the systolic blood pressure, and the ‘bottom’ number is called the diastolic blood pressure. Systolic blood pressure is the pressure in the arteries when the heart contracts, and diastolic blood pressure is the pressure in the arteries with the heart relaxes. Elevation of either the systolic or diastolic blood pressure is called hypertension.

When is blood pressure considered high?
Blood pressure is considered elevated when it is above 140/90 in an otherwise healthy person. Patients who have other medical conditions, such as diabetes or kidney problems need to have tighter control of blood pressure.

What causes high blood pressure?
Most often, high blood pressure is an age-related condition. At age 50, an otherwise healthy person has a 90% lifetime risk of developing high blood pressure. The average fifty year-old patient with hypertension requires two or more agents to gain adequate control of blood pressure. Other reasons to develop high blood pressure include having a family history of high blood pressure, being overweight, or having a personal history of diabetes or kidney problems.

Why is high blood pressure important?
High blood pressure is important to detect and treat because it is highly linked with cardiovascular disease, such as stroke and heart attack. High blood pressure can cause kidney and eye damage as well.

How is high blood pressure treated?
There are several medications that we can use to control blood pressure. However, implementation of a healthy lifestyle to include regular exercise, weight loss, reduction in dietary salt intake, reduction of alcohol intake, and smoking cessation are important ways to reduce blood pressure whether or not you require medication.

What are danger signs?
Often high blood pressure is silent, which is why it’s known as the ‘silent killer.’ However, if you experience a headache, chest pain, heart racing, dizziness, or tingling, your blood pressure may be elevated and you should contact your physician.

For more information, we recommend the American Heart Association’s website at www.americanheart.org.