What Is A High Blood Pressure Reading
You will probably be diagnosed with high blood pressure if your readings are consistently 140/90mmHg or higher over a number of weeks. This is the cut-off point many GPs use for diagnosing high blood pressure.
You might also have high blood pressure if just one of the numbers is higher than it should be so if the top number is over 140mmHg or the bottom number is over 90mmHg.
A single high reading doesnt necessarily mean you have high blood pressure, as many things can affect your blood pressure throughout the day and it could just be a one-off. If you have a high reading, your doctor or nurse will want to see if it stays high over time before diagnosing high blood pressure.
What Can I Do To Prevent Or Manage High Blood Pressure
Many people with high blood pressure can lower their blood pressure into a healthy range or keep their numbers in a healthy range by making lifestyle changes. Talk with your health care team about
- Getting at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week
- Not smoking
- Managing stress
In addition to making positive lifestyle changes, some people with high blood pressure need to take medicine to manage their blood pressure. Learn more about medicines for high blood pressure.
Talk with your health care team right away if you think you have high blood pressure or if youve been told you have high blood pressure but do not have it under control.
Signs Of High Or Low Blood Pressure
Low blood pressure numbers could mean that essential parts of your body like the brain and heart arent receiving enough blood. Some people can have low numbers without it causing them any issues. Others experience symptoms that may show a link between their hypotension and other health problems.
Some common signs of low blood pressure include:
- Heart problems
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Pounding Neck Or Ears
This pounding on your neck and ears is often referred to as tinnitus. It is the annoying sensation where you can hear a sound that is not physically present. Hypertension and other factors that may increase your blood pressure like alcohol, caffeine, and stress may make tinnitus more evident and noticeable.
Why Is Your Blood Pressure Important
Your blood pressure is important because if it is too high, it affects the blood flow to your organs. Over the years, this increases your chances of developing heart disease, stroke, chronic kidney disease, eye disease, erectile dysfunction and other conditions.
Very occasionally, people with very high blood pressure are at serious risk of problems and need urgent treatment in hospital to reduce the risk of a stroke or heart attack.
Current Australian guidelines recommend that if you have persistent raised blood pressure over 160/100 mmHg, but are at low risk of having a stroke or heart attack, you should talk to your doctor or specialist about taking medication to lower your blood pressure.
For further information, visit the Choosing Wisely Australia website.
If youre over 18, you should have your blood pressure checked by your doctor at least every 2 years, or more often if advised.
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What Are The Types Of High Blood Pressure
If you have high blood pressure with no known single cause, this is called essential hypertension or primary hypertension. Most people have this type of hypertension. If you have high blood pressure which is caused by another health problem, this is known as secondary hypertension, and treating the cause should bring your blood pressure back down to normal.
How Is High Blood Pressure Diagnosed
To figure out your blood pressure rate, your health care provider takes blood pressure readings at different times. You need more than 1 reading because blood pressure changes depending on what you are doing and varies during the day. For example, your blood pressure can increase when you are nervous or in a hurry.
If your blood pressure is high while with your health care provider but normal otherwise, you may just be nervous. This effect is common. Even people already being treated for high blood pressure go through this.
What matters is what happens to your blood pressure outside your health care providers office. If you have high blood pressure, you should use a home blood pressure monitor. Ask your health care provider how to use the monitor correctly.
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About High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is usually defined as having a sustained blood pressure of 140/90mmHg or above.
The line between normal and raised blood pressure is not fixed and depends on your individual circumstances. However, most doctors agree that the ideal blood pressure for a physically healthy person is around 120/80mmHg.
A normal blood pressure reading is classed as less than 130/80mmHg.
Blood Pressure Is Linked To Other Medical Issues
High blood pressure can be the first indication of a serious underlying condition. When a patient comes in with high blood pressure, doctors will check their urine and kidney function do an electrocardiogram to check the size of the heart and look for lung changes.
Stress on the blood vessels makes people with hypertension more prone to heart disease, peripheral vascular disease, heart attack, stroke, kidney disease and aneurysms. Correspondingly, chronic conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease, sleep apnea and high cholesterol increase the risk for developing high blood pressure.
In some women, pregnancy can contribute to high blood pressure, leading to preeclampsia. Postpartum blood pressure typically goes back to normal levels within six weeks. However, some women who have high blood pressure during more than one pregnancy may be more likely to develop high blood pressure and other cardiovascular diseases as they age.
Some of these medical issues can also cause spikes in high blood pressure .
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How Can I Monitor My Blood Pressure At Home
Monitoring your blood pressure at home is a great way to stay on top of your blood pressure readings. This way, you can get treatment or make adjustments in your treatment early, and this can prevent complications from high blood pressure over time.
You can buy an automated home blood pressure cuff online, without a prescription, or at local stores and pharmacies. Some insurance companies may also pay for a home cuff as long as you have a prescription or order from your healthcare provider.
Some people always have high blood pressure in a providers office, but normal blood pressure at home. This is called white coat hypertension. Monitoring your blood pressure at home can help sort this out.
Home blood pressure monitoring is also recommended as part of your diagnosis and treatment of high blood pressure, according to current guidelines. Its a great way to get more information about how your blood pressure changes over time. Sharing your home readings with your healthcare provider can help inform a treatment plan.
When you take your blood pressure, there are a few key points to keep in mind to get an accurate reading:
How Common Is High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a common condition, it is estimated that 18% of adult men and 13% of adult women have high blood pressure but are not getting treatment for it.
In 90-95% of cases, there is no single identifiable reason for a rise in blood pressure. But all available evidence shows that lifestyle plays a significant role in regulating your blood pressure.
Risk factors for high blood pressure include:
- poor diet
- being overweight
- excessive alcohol consumption.
Also, for reasons not fully understood, people of Afro-Caribbean and South Asian origin are more likely to develop high blood pressure than other ethnic groups.
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Can High Blood Pressure Affect Pregnancy
High blood pressure complicates about 10% of all pregnancies. There are several different types of high blood pressure during pregnancy and they range from mild to serious. The forms of high blood pressure during pregnancy include:
Chronic hypertension: High blood pressure which is present before pregnancy.
Gestational hypertension: High blood pressure in the latter part of pregnancy.
Preeclampsia: This is a dangerous condition that typically develops in the latter half of pregnancy and results in hypertension, protein in the urine and generalized swelling in the pregnant person. It can affect other organs in the body and cause seizures .
Chronic hypertension with superimposed preeclampsia: Pregnant people who have chronic hypertension are at increased risk for developing preeclampsia.
Your provider will check your blood pressure regularly during prenatal appointments, but if you have concerns about your blood pressure, be sure to talk with your provider.
Get To Know Your Numbers
Because there arent any symptoms, its important to have your blood pressure checked regularly. Get to know the numbers and when to get help from your doctor.
Your blood pressure will have two numbers:
- Systolic is the upper number, measuring when your heart is forcing blood through your vessels.
- Diastolic is the lower number, measuring pressure between heart beats.
For example, 120/80 indicates a systolic blood pressure of 120 and a diastolic blood pressure of 80 mm/Hg.
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Causes And Risk Factors
You may be at an increased risk for high blood pressure if you smoke, areoverweight, eat a diet thats low on produce and fiber and/or high in fatand salt, drink alcohol to excess, live with chronic stress or dont getmuch physical activity. Some causes of hypertension cannot becontrolledincluding your genes and your race . Aging also plays a role. Even if you do not have hypertensionby age 55 to 65, your lifetime risk for developing it is a whopping 90percent.
In one Johns Hopkins study of 975 older women and men with hypertension,healthy lifestyle steps helped 40 percent stop taking blood pressuremedications. Other research has shown that lifestyle changes can lower therisk for hypertension in African-Americans and others at an increasedgenetic risk.
What Are The Treatments For High Blood Pressure
You will work with your provider to come up with a treatment plan. It may include only the lifestyle changes. These changes, such as heart-healthy eating and exercise, can be very effective. But sometimes the changes do not control or lower your high blood pressure. Then you may need to take medicine. There are different types of blood pressure medicines. Some people need to take more than one type.
If your high blood pressure is caused by another medical condition or medicine, treating that condition or stopping the medicine may lower your blood pressure.
NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
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What Questions Should I Ask My Provider
- Are there supplements or non-prescription medicines that I shouldnt take?
- Can I keep taking these medicines if I get pregnant?
- What kinds of exercise should I do?
A note from Cleveland Clinic
If you dont treat high blood pressure, it can put you at risk for developing serious illnesses later in life such as heart attack, kidney failure and stroke. But if you follow your providers instructions, you can control your blood pressure. Be sure to take any medicines your provider ordered as instructed. Keep taking them even if your blood pressure numbers begin to fall into the normal range. Living a healthy lifestyle by eating healthy foods, watching your weight and getting regular exercise is also a great way to help control your blood pressure.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/21/2021.
Learning To Cope With Stress Can Help
Stress and hypertension have often been linked, but researchers are still looking into a direct relationship between the two. Still, the best advice to hypertensive patients: Try to relax.
When you are stressed, your body sends stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol into the bloodstream. These hormones create a temporary spike in blood pressure, causing your heart to beat faster and blood vessels to narrow. When the stressful situation is over, blood pressure goes back to its normal level.
Chronic stress, however, may cause your body to stay in this highly-charged state longer than natural.
While stress itself may or may not affect blood pressure, how you cope with stress does. For instance, overeating, smoking and drinking alcohol in response to stressful situations are direct causes of sustained high blood pressure. On the flip side, healthier coping mechanisms like exercising, practicing yoga and meditating can all help lower blood pressure.
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What Does Your Blood Pressure Reading Mean
If this is your first time taking your blood pressure, discuss the results with your doctor. Blood pressure is a very individualized vital sign reading, which means it can be very different for each person. Some people have naturally low blood pressure all the time, for example, while others may run on the higher side.
In general, a normal blood pressure is considered anything less than 120/80. Your own personal blood pressure will depend on your gender, age, weight, and any medical conditions you have. If you do register a blood pressure reading of 120/80 or over, wait two to five minutes and recheck.
If its still high, talk to your doctor to rule out hypertension. If your blood pressure ever goes over 180 systolic or over 120 diastolic after a repeat reading, seek emergency medical care right away.
Get Regular Blood Pressure Checks
If your blood pressure is in the healthy range and you have no other risk factors for cardiovascular disease, and no personal or family history of high blood pressure, it is still important to have a check at least every two years. Your doctor can also check your blood pressure during routine visits.
If your blood pressure is highnormal , or if you have other risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as a personal or family history of high blood pressure, stroke or heart attack, it is best to have it checked more frequently such as every 6 to 12 months or as directed by your doctor. Ask your doctor for advice.
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High Blood Pressure Facts
What every adult should know about high blood pressure, or hypertension
There’s a good reason why every doctor’s appointment starts with a blood pressure check. While one in three American adults has high blood pressure, about 20% of people are unaware that they have it because it is largely symptomless.
In fact, most people find out they have high blood pressure during a routine office visit.
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of arteries as the heart pumps blood. High blood pressure, also referred to as hypertension, is when that force is too high and begins harming the body. If left untreated, it willl eventually cause damage to the heart and blood vessels.
Your blood pressure is measured in two numbers: The top systolic blood pressure measures the force pushing against artery walls when the heart is contracting. The bottom diastolic blood pressure measures pressure in the arteries when the heart is resting between beats.
Normal blood pressure levels are 120 mmHg/80 mmHg or lower. At risk levels are 120-139 mmHg/80-89 mmHg. Readings of 140 mmHg/90 mmHg or higher are defined as high blood pressure.
Here are six other things you should know about high blood pressure.
New Blood Pressure Guidelines: The Numbers That Really Matter
If high blood pressure goes undetected for a long period of time, the condition can damage your heart, blood vessels, kidneys, and other parts of your body.
For some people, it takes being diagnosed with coronary heart disease, stroke, or kidney failure to learn that they also have high blood pressure.
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How Do I Know If I Have High Or Low Blood Pressure Numbers
Measuring your blood pressure gives you an idea about the amount of force generated by blood pushing against the walls of your arteries as it travels throughout your body. Blood pressure can change throughout the day for various reasons, but having consistently high or low blood pressure could be a sign of a serious health condition.
You measure your blood pressure using two sets of numbers. The first measures your systolic blood pressure, the stress placed on your artery walls from your beating heart. The second measures your diastolic blood pressure, which tells you the level of pressure applied when your heart pauses between beats.
Various methods are available to check your blood pressure. You can find out your numbers by:
- Making an appointment with a doctor
- Visiting a pharmacy that has a digital blood pressure machine available for public use
- Buying and using a home blood pressure monitor
The typical blood pressure range for most people is between 90/60 mm Hg and 120/80 mm Hg. If your numbers are outside that range, you may be dealing with high or low blood pressure also known as hypertension and hypotension, respectively.
Tests For High Blood Pressure
When you have a doctors appointment, a nurse, medical assistant, or doctor typically checks your blood pressure. They routinely check blood pressure because there arent symptoms of high blood pressure. The only way to catch it is to test it.
A blood pressure machine, officially called a sphygmomanometer, is used to test for high blood pressure. The blood pressure cuff fits around your arm. Doctors or nurses might use a manual blood pressure cuff and a stethoscope to measure your blood pressure. At home, you can use an electronic blood pressure monitor. It only takes a minute or so to do the test.
When measuring blood pressure, youll observe two numbers:
- Systolic: top number indicating pressure inside the artery when the heart is contracting
- Diastolic: bottom number indicating the pressure of blood inside the arteries when the heart is filling
You have high blood pressure if you have a systolic reading of 140 mm Hg or higher and a diastolic reading of 90 mm Hg or higher. In this case, the nurse or doctor might wait a few minutes and check your blood pressure again. If its still high, you might be asked to monitor your blood pressure at home.
High blood pressure can be a sign of another medical condition. Untreated high blood pressure can cause organ damage. To assess your health properly, a doctor might also order a urine test, blood tests, or an electrocardiogram to check your heart health.
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