High Blood Pressure
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, may lead to stroke, heart attack, heart failure, enlarged heart, peripheral vascular disease or kidney disease/failure if left untreated.
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High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is a common condition caused when the pressure, or force, of blood pushing against the walls of the blood vessels is too high. High blood pressure can lead to health problems if left untreated.
Although you usually can’t feel high blood pressure, it is easily measured by your doctor. Measurements taken on devices in drug stores are not always correct and should not replace measurements performed by your doctor.
A blood pressure reading has two numbers. The first, or upper, number measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats (systolic pressure). The second, or lower, number measures the pressure in the arteries between beats (diastolic pressure). The unit of measure for blood pressure is millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).
Measurements for blood pressure range from:
- Normal: Less than 120/80 mm Hg;
- Elevated: Top number (systolic) between 120-129 and bottom number (diastolic) less than 80;
- Stage 1: Systolic between 130-139 or diastolic between 80-89;
- Stage 2: Systolic at least 140 or diastolic at least 90 mm Hg;
- Hypertensive crisis: Top number over 180 and/or bottom number over 120, with patients needing prompt changes in medication if there are no other indications of problems, or immediate hospitalization if there are signs of organ damage.
Both numbers in a blood pressure reading are important. But after age 60 years, it’s common for the systolic (top) number to increase faster than the diastolic (lower) number. Adults should have their blood pressure checked at least once a year. Blood pressure can vary throughout the day.
High blood pressure usually occurs in people with family members who have high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease or diabetes. African Americans, individuals over age 35 years, pregnant women and people who are overweight, are not active, or who drink excessive alcohol, eat fatty or salty foods or smoke are at risk for high blood pressure.