High blood pressure is abnormally high blood pressure with no known cause. Blood pressure measurements are read as two numbers:
High blood pressure is defined as systolic pressure greater than 140 mmHg and/or diastolic pressure greater than 90 mmHg. You are considered prehypertensive if your systolic blood pressure is between 120-139 mmHg, or your diastolic pressure is between 80- 89 mmHg.
High blood pressure puts stress on the heart, lungs, brain, kidneys, and blood vessels. Over time, this condition can damage these organs and tissues.
High blood pressure is more common in men, postmenopausal women, older adults, and people of African American descent.
Factors that may increase your risk of high blood pressure include:
High blood pressure usually does not cause symptoms. But, the condition can still damage your organs and tissues.
Occasionally, if blood pressure reaches extreme levels, you may have the following:
High blood pressure is often diagnosed during a doctor's visit. Blood pressure is measured using an arm cuff and a special device. If your reading is high, you will come back for repeat checks. If you have 3 visits with readings over 140/90 mmHG, you will be diagnosed with high blood pressure.
Sometimes people become anxious at the doctor's office. This may result in a higher than normal blood pressure reading. You may be asked to measure your blood pressure at home or in another location.
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with:
Images may be taken of your chest. This can be done with chest x-rays.
Your heart's activity may be measured. This can be done with an electrocardiogram (ECG, EKG).
Medications may include:
Note: Untreated high blood pressure can lead to:
If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, follow your doctor's instructions.
To help reduce your risk of getting high blood pressure, take the following steps:
American Heart Association
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Canadian Cardiovascular Society
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
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What is high blood pressure? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/Hbp/HBP_WhatIs.html. Updated August 2, 2012. Accessed September 30, 2014.
9/2/2009 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Forman J, Stampfer M, Curhan G. Diet and lifestyle risk factors associated with incident hypertension in women. JAMA. 2009;302(4):401-411.
Last reviewed August 2014 by Michael J. Fucci, DO
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.