High blood pressure (hypertension) is known as the “silent killer.” This is because most of the time it doesn’t cause symptoms. In fact, many people don’t know they have it until other problems develop. In most cases, high blood pressure often requires lifelong treatment.
Understanding blood pressure
The circulatory system is made up of the heart and blood vessels that carry blood through the body. Your heart is the pump for this system. With each heartbeat (contraction), the heart sends blood out through large blood vessels called arteries. Blood pressure is a measure of how hard the moving blood pushes against the walls of the arteries.
High blood pressure can harm your health
In a healthy blood vessel, the blood moves smoothly through the vessel and puts normal pressure on the vessel walls.
High blood pressure occurs when blood pushes too hard against artery walls. This causes damage to the artery walls and then the formation of scar tissue as it heals. This makes the arteries stiff and weak. Plaque sticks to the scarred tissue narrowing and hardening the arteries. High blood pressure also causes your heart to work harder to get blood out to the body. High blood pressure raises your risk of heart attack, also known as acute myocardial infarction, or AMI, heart failure, and stroke. It can also lead to kidney disease, and blindness. In general, if you have high blood pressure, keeping your blood pressure below 130/80 mmHg may help prevent these problems. Your healthcare provider may prescribe medicine to help control blood pressure if lifestyle changes are not enough.
It's important to know your blood pressure numbers. Blood pressure measurements are given as 2 numbers. Systolic blood pressure is the upper number. This is the pressure when the heart contracts. Diastolic blood pressure is the lower number. This is the pressure when the heart relaxes between beats.
Blood pressure is categorized as normal, elevated, or stage 1 or stage 2 high blood pressure:
Normal blood pressure is systolic of less than 120 and diastolic of less than 80 (120/80)
Elevated blood pressure is systolic of 120 to 129 and diastolic less than 80
Stage 1 high blood pressure is systolic is 130 to 139 or diastolic between 80 to 89
Stage 2 high blood pressure is when systolic is 140 or higher or the diastolic is 90 or higher
High blood pressure is diagnosed when multiple, separate readings show blood pressure above 130/80 mmHg. Talk with your healthcare provider if you have questions or concerns about your blood pressure readings.
Measuring blood pressure
An example of a blood pressure measurement is 120/70. The top number is the pressure of blood against the artery walls during a heartbeat (systolic). The bottom number is the pressure of blood against artery walls between heartbeats (diastolic). Talk with your healthcare provider to find out what your blood pressure goals should be.