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Hypertension is the term used to describe high blood pressure.
Blood pressure is a measurement of the force against the walls of your arteries as the heart pumps blood through the body.
Blood pressure readings are measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and usually given as two numbers -- for example, 120 over 80 (written as 120/80 mmHg). One or both of these numbers can be too high.
The top number is your systolic pressure.
The bottom number is your diastolic pressure.
Pre-hypertension may be considered when your:
If you have pre-hypertension, you are more likely to develop high blood pressure.
If you have heart or kidney problems, or if you had a stroke, your doctor may want your blood pressure to be even lower than that of people who do not have these conditions.
See also: Blood pressure
High blood pressure; HBP; Blood pressure - high
Many factors can affect blood pressure, including:
You are more likely to be told your blood pressure is too high as you get older. This is because your blood vessels become stiffer as you age. When that happens, your blood pressure goes up. High blood pressure increases your chance of having a stroke, heart attack, heart failure, kidney disease, and early death.
You have a higher risk of high blood pressure if you:
Most of the time, no cause is identified. This is called essential hypertension.
High blood pressure that is caused by another medical condition or medication is called secondary hypertension. Secondary hypertension may be due to:
Most of the time, there are no symptoms. Symptoms that may occur include:
If you have a severe headache or any of the symptoms above, see your doctor right away. These may be signs of a complication or dangerously high blood pressure called malignant hypertension.
Your health care provider will perform a physical exam and check your blood pressure. If the measurement is high, your health care provider may think you have high blood pressure. The measurements need to be repeated over time, so that the diagnosis can be confirmed.
If you monitor your blood pressure at home, you may be asked the following questions:
Other tests may be done to look for blood in the urine or heart failure. Your doctor will look for signs of complications in your heart, kidneys, eyes, and other organs in your body.
These tests may include:
The goal of treatment is to reduce blood pressure so that you have a lower risk of complications. You and your health care provider should set a blood pressure goal for you.
There are many different medicines that can be used to treat high blood pressure, including:
Your health care provider may also tell you to exercise, lose weight, and follow a healthier diet. If you have pre-hypertension, your health care provider will recommend the same lifestyle changes to bring your blood pressure down to a normal range.
Often, a single blood pressure drug may not be enough to control your blood pressure, and you may need to take two or more drugs. It is very important that you take the medications prescribed to you. If you have side effects, your health care provider can substitute a different medication.
In addition to taking medicine, you can do many things to help control your blood pressure, including:
Your health care provider can help you find programs for losing weight, stopping smoking, and exercising. You can also get a referral from your doctor to a dietitian, who can help you plan a diet that is healthy for you.
Your health care provider may ask you to keep track of your blood pressure at home. Make sure you get a good quality, well-fitting home device. It will probably have a cuff with a stethoscope or a digital readout. Practice with your health care provider or nurse to make sure you are taking your blood pressure correctly.
Most of the time, high blood pressure can be controlled with medicine and lifestyle changes.
If you have high blood pressure, you will have regularly scheduled appointments with your doctor.
Even if you have not been diagnosed with high blood pressure, it is important to have your blood pressure checked during your yearly check-up, especially if someone in your family has or had high blood pressure.
Call your health care provider right away if home monitoring shows that your blood pressure remains high or you have any of the following symptoms:
Adults over 18 should have their blood pressure checked routinely.
Lifestyle changes may help control your blood pressure:
Follow your health care provider's recommendations to modify, treat, or control possible causes of secondary hypertension.
Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure (JNC 7). Rockville, Md. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, US Department of Health and Human Services; August 2004. National Institutes of Health Publication No. 04-5230.
Kaplan NM. Systemic Hypertension: Therapy. In: Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Zipes DP, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 41.
Wolff T, Miller T. Evidence for the reaffirmation of the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendation on screening for high blood pressure. Ann Intern Med. 2007;147:787-791.
Blumenthal JA, Babyak MA, Hinderliter A, Watkins LL, Craighead L, Lin PH, et al. Effects of the DASH diet alone and in combination with exercise and weight loss on blood pressure and cardiovascular biomarkers in men and women with high blood pressure: the ENCORE study. Arch Intern Med. 2010;170:126-135.