- Diseases, Disorders & Conditions
Hypertension: A High Blood Pressure Reading
Understanding Hypertension: What is High Blood Pressure?
Hypertension is high blood pressure. This basically means there is a large amount of stress and tension placed on the arteries. Arteries carry the blood from the heart to the rest of the body. There are two measurements analyzed when your blood pressure is taken: systolic and diastolic.
- Systolic Pressure: This is the top number of a blood pressure reading. Systolic pressure measures the pressure in the arteries as the heart contracts. When the heart contracts, it is pumping blood to the body.
- Diastolic Pressure: This is the bottom number of a blood pressure reading. Diastolic pressure measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart is relaxed after contracting.
What is a normal blood pressure reading?
121 - 139
81 - 89
High Blood Pressure: Stage 1
140 - 159
90 - 99
High Blood Pressure: Stage 2
160 or above
100 or above
Hypertensive Crisis (emergency care needed)
180 or above
110 or above
How often should I check my blood pressure?
The American Heart Association recommends having your blood pressure checked at all of your doctor visits, or at least every two years. However, if you are diagnosed with prehypertension or actual hypertension, your doctor will want to screen your readings on a regular basis.
What are the signs and symptoms of high blood pressure?
Unfortunately, there are no real symptoms of hypertension. This is why high blood pressure has gained the title, the silent killer or the widow maker. One can suffer from high blood pressure for months or even years and have it go undetected. This is why regular check ups are important.
Do symptoms ever exist? Yes, not all cases of hypertension are symptom free. Some high blood pressure patients experience headaches, dizziness, nausea, shortness of breath and can possibly experience blurred vision. Severe case may include kidney failure.
Are there different types of high blood pressure?
Yes. Hypertension can be categorized into a few different types. However, aside from prehypertension and general hypertension, high blood pressure can fall into one of the following categories:
- Isolated Systolic High Blood Pressure
- White Coat Blood Pressure
- Borderline High Blood Pressure
Isolated Systolic High Blood Pressure
Let's review readings for a bit. Systolic pressure is the top number in a blood pressure reading. This number represents when the heart contracts (pumps) blood out to the body. A patient diagnosed with Isolated Systolic High Blood Pressure generally has a systolic reading above 140 and a diastolic pressure at 90 or below. When the top reading is above 140 and the diastolic reading (bottom number) is not elevated, it causes an increase in pulse pressure. Rigid arteries are usually the cause for the pulse pressure to increase. Pulse pressure widening is represented by a larger distance between the systolic and diastolic pressure.
What are the risks of an elevated pulse pressure? Patients diagnosed with Isolated Systolic High Blood pressure are at increased risk of developing a heart attack, stroke, heart disease or enlarged heart.
Reducing the systolic pressure can greatly improve one's health and can significantly lower the risks of the outcomes listed above.
White Coat Blood Pressure
White Coat Blood Pressure is an interesting situation. This type of high blood pressure occurs for a variety of reasons. White coat refers to the lab coats doctors and their assistants wear. Many times a patient's blood pressure will be elevated during a doctor's visit. It can be due to a rushed day, nerves from the appointment or other factors. A trigger finger reading may also be the cause. This is to say, medical employees are quick to inadvertently diagnose hypertension and over-treat.
Some doctors will combat this by having the patient maintain a log of their own blood pressure readings. The patient will then provide the physician with the data collected and a comparison will be made.
Note, blood pressure can fluctuate during the day and a variety of circumstances can affect readings. Exercise, stress and foods are just some of the factors able to cause one's blood pressure to fluctuate.
Borderline High Blood Pressure
Borderline High Blood Pressure is basically, prehypertension. This is the stage above a normal reading, but not quite as high as a hypertensive reading. This stage requires constant monitoring and care. Most patients with borderline high blood pressure usually end up with a diagnosis of hypertension. Exercise, a healthy diet and medications can improve this possible outcome. Consider a healthier lifestyle as a means of preventing a diagnosis of hypertension.
Learn how to take your own blood pressure readings at home. It may be wise in investing in your own blood pressure machine if hypertension is a concern for you.
High Blood Pressure References on Amazon
American Heart Association
National Institutes of Health
U.S. National Library of Medicine
Normal Blood Pressure: What is a Good Blood Pressure Reading and How to Check It at Home
Foods that Lower Blood Pressure and Reduce Hypertension: Food List
Disclaimer: Information in this hub is research based. The author is not a physician and does not diagnose or treat health issues. The information provided in this hub should not be construed as personal medical advice or instruction. Please consult a physician for medical and dietary advice and treatment. Blood pressure should not be treated without the supervision of a medical professional.
© 2012 Marisa Hammond Olivares