High Blood Pressure: The Two Numbers You Need To Look At

Do you have high blood pressure? Does someone you love have it? About 75 million American adults (32%) have high blood pressure—that’s 1 in every 3 adults! That means that we all know someone with high blood pressure. So how do you know if you have high blood pressure?

There’s only one way to know whether you have high blood pressure – have a doctor or other healthcare professional measure it. Blood pressure numbers, systolic and diastolic, are extremely important numbers. You should know yours.

How Is Blood Pressure Measured?

Measuring your blood pressure is quick and painless. You can check your blood pressure at a doctor’s office, a pharmacy or at home if you have a blood pressure monitor. First, a doctor or other healthcare professional wraps a special cuff around your arm. The cuff has a gauge on it that will read your blood pressure. The doctor then inflates the cuff to squeeze your arm.

After the cuff is inflated, the doctor will slowly let air out. While doing this, he or she will listen to your pulse with a stethoscope and watch the gauge. The gauge uses a scale called millimeters of mercury (mmHg) to measure the pressure in your blood vessels.

Systolic And Diastolic: Both Are Important

Hypertension is the term used to describe high blood pressure. Blood pressure readings are measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and usually given as two numbers, for example, 120 over 80, written as 120/80 mmHg. Either or both of these numbers may be too high.

In a blood pressure reading the top number is your systolic pressure, the pressure of the blood when your heart beats. It is considered high if it is consistently 140 mmHg or above, according to the American Heart Association.

The bottom number is your diastolic pressure, the pressure inside blood vessels when your heart is at rest. It is considered high if it is consistently 90 mm Hg or above, according to the American Heart Association.

Hypertension Affects Us All

High blood pressure can affect all types of people. You have a higher risk of it if you have a family history of the disease. High blood pressure is more common in African Americans than Caucasians. Smoking, obesity and diabetes are all risk factors for hypertension.

Many factors can affect blood pressure. Some of them are how much water and salt you have in your body, the condition of your kidneys, nervous system and blood vessels, as well as the levels of hormones. Stress also plays a role in hypertension.

Most of the time, no cause is identified. This is called essential hypertension. High blood pressure that results from a specific condition, habit or medication is called secondary hypertension. Secondary hypertension may also be due to alcohol and drug abuse, medications such as appetite suppressants and certain cold medications and diabetes.

A higher percentage of men have high blood pressure until age 45. From ages 45–64, the percentage of men and women is similar; after that a much higher percentage
of women have high blood pressure.

Most of the time, there are no symptoms. Symptoms that may occur include chest pain, ear noise or buzzing and vision changes. If you have a severe headache or any of the symptoms above, see your doctor right away. These may be signs of a complication or dangerously high blood pressure called malignant hypertension.

How You Can Prevent Hypertension

Although you cannot control all your risk factors for high blood pressure, you can take steps to prevent or control it and its complications. You can make changes to your lifestyle that will help you control your blood pressure. Your doctor might prescribe medications that can help you. By controlling your blood pressure, you will lower your risk for the harmful effects of high blood pressure.

Work With Your Healthcare Team

Team-based care that includes you, your doctor and other healthcare providers can help reduce and control blood pressure.

If you already have high blood pressure, your doctor may prescribe medications and lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes are just as important as medications. Follow your doctor’s instructions and stay on your medications.

Make Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle changes can help you control your blood pressure. Be sure to eat a healthy diet that is low in salt, saturated fat and cholesterol. Eat a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables. Exercise also helps with hypertension. Take a brisk 10-minute walk three times a day, five days a week. Most importantly, do not smoke. If you smoke, quit today!

Preventative care is the foundation of Warner Family Practice. When it comes to hypertension, our doctors and healthcare providers routinely prescribe lab testing and quarterly appointments which allow them to actively monitor your health. Collecting extensive data on your health over an extended period of time gives you and your physician the opportunity to catch signs of hypertension and pre-hypertension in the earliest stages.

If you are in the Chandler, Tempe, Mesa, Phoenix or Gilbert area of Arizona, we encourage you to schedule a visit with one of our providers. You can call 480.831.8457 to speak with our scheduling department.

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