Hypertensive Crisis: When You Should Call 911 For High Blood Pressure
A hypertensive crisis is when blood pressure rises quickly and severely with readings of 180/120 or greater.
The consequences of uncontrolled blood pressure in this range can be severe and include:
- Pulmonary edema
An elevated reading may or may not be accompanied by one or more of the following symptoms:
- Severe headache
- Severe anxiety
The Blood Pressure Chart
Once you know your numbers, you can use the blood pressure chart to see what they mean and if your blood pressure is in the healthy range. The chart is suitable for adults of any age, as the cut-off point for diagnosing high blood pressure doesnt change with age.
How to use the blood pressure chart
Simply find your top number on the left side of the chart and your bottom number on the bottom. Where the two lines meet is your blood pressure.
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Normal Vs Abnormal Blood Pressure
According to the AHA, a normal blood pressure reading for adults is a top number below 120 combined with a bottom number under 80 noted as 120/80 millimeters of mercury.
However, physicians start to get concerned when the top number heads north. “Blood pressure is considered ‘mildly elevated’ if it’s between 120 and 129 over less than 80,” says Willie E. Lawrence, Jr., MD, chief of cardiology with Midwest Heart & Vascular Specialists, in Kansas City, Missouri. “We define blood pressure greater than 130 over 80 or more as high blood pressure, or hypertension,” he says. “Once it’s above 130, that’s certainly considered high.”
Specifically, the AHA characterizes a blood pressure of 130 to 139 over 80 to 89 as “Stage 1” high blood pressure. Even more risky is “Stage 2,” which is when a reading is between 140 and 180 over 90 to 120.
“Now, where we get particularly concerned is when the top number is found to be greater than 180,” Dr. Lawrence says. “In truth, there are plenty of people who run around living their life with 180 and feel nothing. They may be asymptomatic. They may have no idea that anything is wrong. But unfortunately for them, in many cases, their first indication that something is very wrong ends up being a heart attack, a stroke or congestive heart failure.”
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High Blood Pressure In Adults
Healthy blood pressure in adults is a reading below 120 systolic and 80 diastolic. Blood pressure between 120 to 129 systolic and under 80 diastolic is considered elevated. Elevated blood pressure means you have a greater risk of developing high blood pressure later on. Your doctor may suggest eating less salt, eating a heart healthy diet, or living a more active lifestyle.
High Blood Pressure And Daily Activity
Check with your doctor before starting a new activity or increasing your level or intensity. Be active safely. Build up your levels of activity gradually.
Try to do at least 30 to 45 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity on most, if not all, days of the week. This can be done in bouts of 10 minutes or longer, if that is more convenient.
Physical activity is any form of bodily movement performed by our large muscle groups. Moderate-intensity physical activity , such as brisk walking or cycling, is enough to provide health benefits.
Walking is a great activity for all ages. You may like to join one of the Heart Foundations community walking groups.
Some types of exercises, such as body presses and lifting heavy weights, can raise your blood pressure. Avoid these if you have high blood pressure.
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Diagnosing High Or Low Blood Pressure
Only one of your numbers needs to be higher than it should be to be diagnosed with high blood pressure, and only one needs to be lower than it should be to be diagnosed with low blood pressure.
So if your top number is over 140 or the bottom number is over 90, you may be diagnosed with high blood pressure, regardless of the other number. If your top number is under 90 or your bottom number is under 60, you may be diagnosed with low blood pressure. Use the chart to see where your numbers sit.
If your top number is consistently higher than 140mmHg, but the bottom number is healthy – this is known as Isolated Systolic Hypertension. If the bottom number is consistently higher than 90mmHg but the top number is healthy – this is known as Isolated Diastolic Hypertension.
Making sure your readings arent a one-off
A single high reading doesnt necessarily mean you have high blood pressure, as many things can affect your blood pressure throughout the day, such as the temperature, when you last ate, and if youre feeling stressed.
Your doctor or nurse will probably want to measure your blood pressure a number of times over a few weeks to make sure the reading wasnt just a one off and that your blood pressure stays high over time.
Read about how high blood pressure is diagnosed, getting a blood pressure check, the further tests you might have if you have a high blood pressure reading, and what it means if youre diagnosed with high blood pressure.
Low Systolic Blood Pressure
The American Heart Association doesnt state a specific number at which blood pressure is considered too low, as long as none of the symptoms of trouble are present. Therefore, what is low systolic blood pressure?
Most experts define low systolic blood pressure as a systolic number less than 90 mmHg.
If you have high BP and dont have a doctor or the correct health plan for you, you may want to check out a health plan service I recommend. They can get a plan fitting your situation and affordable. Visit the eHealth Insurance website for more information.
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Heart Attack And Heart Disease
High blood pressure can damage your arteries by making them less elastic, which decreases the flow of blood and oxygen to your heart and leads to heart disease. In addition, decreased blood flow to the heart can cause:
- Chest pain, also called angina.
- Heart attack, which happens when the blood supply to your heart is blocked and heart muscle begins to die without enough oxygen. The longer the blood flow is blocked, the greater the damage to the heart.
- Heart failure, a condition that means your heart cant pump enough blood and oxygen to your other organs.
How To Keep A Healthy Blood Pressure Level
If your blood pressure is in the normal range, you wont need any medical intervention however, you should maintain a healthy lifestyle and a healthy weight to prevent hypertension from developing. You may need to be even more cautious about your lifestyle if hypertension runs in your family.
The following recommendations can help you maintain healthy blood pressure:
- Keep a healthy body weight.
- Stick with a regular diet of fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products.
- Cut down on sodium intake.
- Regular aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking, running or swimming, for at least half 90 to 150 minutes per week.
- Keep alcohol intake to no more than one to two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.
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Tips For Managing High Blood Pressure
Theres no cure for high blood pressure, but you can successfully manage it with medication and living a healthy lifestyle, Dr. Dadabhoy says.
The following changes can help you better manage high blood pressure:
- Monitoring your blood pressure regularly
- Taking your medications as prescribed
- Eating a well-balanced, low-salt diet
- Exercising regularly
- Maintaining a healthy weight that you and your doctor have agreed on
- Quitting smoking
- Increasing potassium intake, if recommended by your doctor
- Managing stress
Treatment For Low Blood Pressure Depends On The Cause
If a cause can be found, a GP will be able to recommend treatment to ease your symptoms.
For example, they may suggest:
- changing medicines or altering your dose, if this is the cause
- wearing support stockings this can improve circulation and increase blood pressure
Medicine to increase blood pressure is rarely needed because simple lifestyle measures or treating the underlying cause is usually effective.
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Normal Blood Pressure For Men
Men are recommended to have an average normal blood pressure of 120/80 however, as we have noted, there are varying factors to consider when determining what works for each person. What is normal for a man in his 30s is not deemed a normal reading for a man in his 60s.
The following are the average blood pressures and the corresponding lows and highs for men from ages 15 to 64 years.
How To Lower Blood Pressure
If you’re over 70 and have been told that your blood pressure is too high, don’t let the condition’s lack of symptoms keep you from working to get it into a healthy range. Make it a point to:
Review all your medications with your doctor.“Many people will need medication to manage their blood pressure,” Andromalos says. But be sure to tell your doctor about all other prescriptions you may have and any over-the-counter medications that you take, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or decongestants because they can raise your blood pressure, Dr. Vaishnava says.
Move more. Regular, moderate exercise can help you lower your blood pressure, the Mayo Clinic states. Find an activity you enjoy so that you’ll stick with it cycling, walking, swimming or dancing, for instance. Strength training and high intensity interval training also can help lower your blood pressure.
Lose weight. The higher your body mass, the harder your heart has to work to pump critical blood. Losing even a small amount of weight can help lower your blood pressure, the Mayo Clinic states.
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Healthy And Unhealthy Blood Pressure Ranges
Learn whats considered normal, as recommended by the American Heart Association.
|SYSTOLIC mm Hg||and/or||DIASTOLIC mm Hg|
|HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE STAGE 1||130 139|
|HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE STAGE 2||140 OR HIGHER|
|HYPERTENSIVE CRISIS||HIGHER THAN 180||and/or||HIGHER THAN 120|
Note: A diagnosis of high blood pressure must be confirmed with a medical professional. A doctor should also evaluate any unusually low blood pressure readings.
Digital Blood Pressure Monitors
Digital blood pressure monitors are often used on the wrist, but they can also be placed on the finger or upper arm and are activated simply by pressing a button. They read the blood pressure automatically based on variations in the volume of blood in the arteries. When taking blood pressure measurements on the wrist, it’s important to keep the hand level with the heart. Otherwise it can affect the readings.
Digital meters can sometimes be inaccurate and produce unreliable readings anyway especially in people with certain heart rhythm problems or arteries that have hardened due to arteriosclerosis.
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Get With The Guidelines
In 2017, the American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology and nine other health organizations published revised guidelines for blood pressure.
They were updated “because research suggested that you can have complications from high blood pressure at lower levels than previously thought,” says Laura Andromalos, RD, CDE, nutrition program manager at Northwest Weight and Wellness Center in Everett, Washington, and a certified diabetes educator coach in the telehealth setting for Cecelia Health. “Previously, adults over 65 years old were considered to have high blood pressure at levels over 150/80 mmHg.”
We now know that the ideal of 120/80 lowers the risks for both heart attacks and strokes, according to the American Heart Association. However, each person is unique, so at every age, it’s important to work with your doctor to be sure your numbers fall within a range that is ideal for you and your overall health, Dr. Vaishnava says.
What Is Normal Blood Pressure By Age
Blood pressure ranges for adults are:
- High: Systolic of 130 or above and/or diastolic of 80 or above
- High Blood Pressure Stage 1: Systolic of 130-139 or diastolic of 80-89
- High Blood Pressure Stage 2: Systolic of 140 or higher or diastolic 90 or higher
The normal Blood Pressure Ranges for Adults Chart
|Blood Pressure Category|
|Higher than 120|
The normal blood pressure for adolescents 13 years or older is less than 120/80 mmHg.
In younger children, the normal range for blood pressure is determined by the child’s sex, age, and height. The normal range is expressed as a percentile, similar to charts used to track children’s growth.
Blood pressure is separated into three categories based upon the child’s blood pressure percentile:
The normal blood pressure range for Children Chart
|Blood Pressure Category|
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High Blood Pressure Treatment
The best way to lower blood pressure begins with changes you can make to your lifestyle to help lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart disease. Additionally, your doctor may prescribe medicine to lower your blood pressure. These are called antihypertensive medicines.
The goal of treatment is to reduce your blood pressure to normal levels. Your doctor may prescribe medicine thats easy to take and has few, if any, side effects. This treatment is highly successful. If your blood pressure can only be controlled with medicine, youll need to take the medicine for the rest of your life. It is common to need more than one medicine to help control your blood pressure. Dont stop taking the medicine without talking with your doctor. Otherwise, you may increase your risk of having a stroke or heart attack.
Normal Blood Pressure For Children
Normal BP ranges vary in children by age. The University of Iowa Stead Family Childrens Hospital provides this chart:
|Normal Blood Pressure for Children|
|112128 mm Hg||6680 mm Hg|
What is considered healthy for your child also varies by height, age, and sex. You can use Baylor College of Medicine’s calculator to see if your childs blood pressure reading is in a healthy range.
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Regulation Of Blood Pressure
These different mechanisms are not necessarily independent of each other, as indicated by the link between the RAS and aldosterone release. When blood pressure falls many physiological cascades commence in order to return the blood pressure to a more appropriate level.
What Medications Are Used To Treat High Blood Pressure
Four classes of high blood pressure medications are considered first line when starting treatment. Sometimes other medications are coupled with these first-line drugs to better control your high blood pressure. First-line drug pressure lowering medications are:
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors block the production the angiotensin II hormone, which the body naturally uses to control blood pressure. When angiotensin II is blocked, your blood vessels dont narrow. Examples: lisinopril , enalapril , captopril .
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers block this same hormone from binding with receptors in the blood vessels. ARBs work the same way as ACE inhibitors to keep blood vessels from narrowing. Examples: metoprolol , valsartan , losartan .
- Calcium channel blockers prevent calcium from entering the muscle cells of your heart and blood vessels, allowing these vessels to relax. Examples: amlodipine , nifedipine , diltiazem .
- Diuretics flush excess sodium from your body, reducing the amount of fluid in your blood. Diuretics are often used with other high blood pressure medicines, sometimes in one combined pill. Examples: indapamide, hydrochlorothiazide, chlorothiazide.
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