Seniors Network  
  This article is for information purposes only - if you have or suspect you have High blood pressure please see your Doctor.

What Is High Blood Pressure or Hypertension?

High blood pressure is a blood pressure reading of 140/90 mmHg or higher.

Nearly one in three adults has high blood pressure. Once high blood pressure develops, it usually lasts a lifetime. The good news is that it can be treated and controlled.

High blood pressure is called "the silent killer" because it usually has no symptoms. Some people may not find out they have it until they have trouble with their heart, brain, or kidneys. When high blood pressure is not found and treated, it can cause:

  • The heart to get larger, which may lead to heart failure.

  • Small bulges (aneurysms) to form in blood vessels. Common locations are the main artery from the heart (aorta), arteries in the brain, legs, and intestines, and the artery leading to the spleen.

  • Blood vessels in the kidney to narrow, which may cause kidney failure.

  • Arteries throughout the body to "harden" faster, especially those in the heart, brain, kidneys, and legs. This can cause a heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, or amputation of part of the leg.

  • Blood vessels in the eyes to burst or bleed, which may cause vision changes and can result in blindness.

  • What is blood pressure?
    Blood is carried from the heart to all parts of your body in vessels called arteries. Blood pressure is the force of the blood pushing against the walls of the arteries. Each time the heart beats (about 60-70 times a minute at rest), it pumps out blood into the arteries. Your blood pressure is at its highest when the heart beats, pumping the blood. This is called systolic pressure. When the heart is at rest, between beats, your blood pressure falls. This is the diastolic pressure.

    Blood pressure is always given as these two numbers, the systolic and diastolic pressures. Both are important. Usually they are written one above or before the other, such as 120/80 mmHg.

    The top number is the systolic and the bottom the diastolic. When the two measurements are written down, the systolic pressure is the first or top number, and the diastolic pressure is the second or bottom number (for example, 120/80). If your blood pressure is 120/80, you say that it is "120 over 80."

    Blood pressure changes during the day. It is lowest as you sleep and rises when you get up. It also can rise when you are excited, nervous, or active.

    Still, for most of your waking hours, your blood pressure stays pretty much the same when you are sitting or standing still. That level should be lower than 120/80. When the level stays high, 140/90 or higher, you have high blood pressure. With high blood pressure, the heart works harder, your arteries take a beating, and your chances of a stroke, heart attack, and kidney problems are greater.

    What is normal blood pressure?

    A blood pressure reading below 120/80 is considered normal. In general, lower is better. However, very low blood pressures can sometimes be a cause for concern and should be checked out by a doctor.

    Doctors classify blood pressures under 140/90 as either "normal," or "hypertension."

  • "Normal" blood pressures are lower than 120/80.

  • "Prehypertension" is blood pressure between 120 and 139 for the top number, or between 80 and 89 for the bottom number. For example, blood pressure readings of 138/82, 128/89, or 130/86 are all in the "prehypertension" range. If your blood pressure is in the prehypertension range, it is more likely that you will end up with high blood pressure unless you take action to prevent it.

  • What is high blood pressure?
    A blood pressure of 140/90 or higher is considered high blood pressure. Both numbers are important. If one or both numbers are usually high, you have high blood pressure. If you are being treated for high blood pressure, you still have high blood pressure even if you have repeated readings in the normal range.

    Living with High Blood Pressure

    If you have high blood pressure, it is important that you:

    • Keep track of your blood pressure. Learn to take your own blood pressure at home or have it regularly checked by a health care professional. Write it down each time (with date).

    • Talk to your health care provider about the names and dosages of your blood pressure medicines and how to take them.

    • If you think you're having other problems (side effects) from taking your medicine, talk to your doctor. Another medicine may be better for you, or the problem may not be related to the medicine.

    • Refill your blood pressure medicines before they run out.

    • Take your blood pressure medicines exactly as directed.

    • Keep your follow-up appointments with your health care provider.

    • Choose healthier habits--for example, eat a heart healthy diet, exercise regularly, and don't smoke.

    • Ask your doctor or health care provider questions about your treatment and what you need to do to take care of yourself and lower your high blood pressure.

    Remember, high blood pressure has no symptoms. If you have it, you cannot tell by the way you feel when your blood pressure level is high.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     
     

    Copyright Seniors Network 2000-2015  Site designed by MOL -selected for preservation by the British Library and archived regularly