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Hypertension: A High Blood Pressure Reading

Updated on May 3, 2015
Prehypertension begins with readings above 120/80.
Prehypertension begins with readings above 120/80. | Source

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.

It is not a bad idea to learn how to take and monitor your own blood pressure.
It is not a bad idea to learn how to take and monitor your own blood pressure. | Source

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.

A diet rich in magnesium, potassium and calcium have shown great results in naturally lowering blood pressure readings.

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.


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


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    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      7 years ago from Texas

      abbaelijah, you are quite welcome, thank you.

    • abbaelijah profile image


      7 years ago from Abuja - Nigeria

      Thanks for the info !

    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      7 years ago from Texas

      Millionaire Tips, thank you very much. I'm glad to hear you have found the table helpful. Always glad to see you.

    • Millionaire Tips profile image

      Shasta Matova 

      7 years ago from USA

      Great information well presented. I especially liked the table, since it makes it clear that the systolic is going up by 20 and the diastolic is going up by 10. I had a hard time figuring out if the number the nurse gave me at the dr. office was good or bad. I think I should remember now. Voted up.

    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      7 years ago from Texas

      cclitgirl, LOL, I guess I have a confession, I pulled and dragged a waiting room chair all the way into the examining room at about the age of 4 hahaha. I think I even kicked the nurse that time, poor woman. My readings are always higher at the office than at home, this is why I like to track it on my own and take in my own data, Thanks for the laugh CC, you made my morning. Oh, and stay healthy.

      Deepak, thank you so very much. I have to agree stress is a major cause but an unhealthy diet certainly doesn't help. Thank you for reading and commenting.

      Thundermama, thank you. The readings in the table help me too. Helps me keep a close eye on the ranges I'm falling in. Thank you for the votes and shares.

    • Thundermama profile image

      Catherine Taylor 

      7 years ago from Canada

      Very useful hub and well written. Helps demystify the numbers. Sharing and voted up!

    • Deepak Chaturvedi profile image

      Deepak Chaturvedi 

      7 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Great hub and useful tool.Actually stress is the root cause of all problems so it is equally important to know the cause of blood pressure.

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      7 years ago from Western NC

      Oooh, I totally get the whitecoat hypertension. I can't.stand.doctors. I often have to be forced to go. I don't know what it is, but even when I was little, they had to drag me kicking and screaming - literally - to the doctor's office. I've never, ever, ever, ever, ever liked it. Ever. LOL.

      So, if I go and they say, hmm, your pressure's a little high, I stare blankly and say, "it's you." LOL...well, I'm not quite that bad, but let's just say I'm not my warm and fuzzy self. Good information here! Good stuff to know, too. :)

    • missolive profile imageAUTHOR

      Marisa Hammond Olivares 

      8 years ago from Texas

      Sunnie Day, thank you, knowing your educational back ground and past work experience...I am thoroughly honored.

      AloBeDa, I am very glad to hear you find this useful. My best to you and your husband.

      teaches12345, thank you. Daily stress does seem to add up and affect overall health. It seems to get worse with age too. I do hope your student does take care of themselves. I hope it won't be a lifelong issue for them.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      8 years ago

      Another wonderful hub post and also well researched and covered. I just had a student tell me her blood pressure was up and she doesn't know how it could have happened. From what I know of her, she has a lot of stressors in her present life. Thanks for the information.

    • AloBeDa profile image


      8 years ago from The Global Village

      Thank you for this missolive. I have been concerned about my husband's pressure rising to 139 this morning. The info has helped to set us on the right track.

    • profile image

      Sunnie Day 

      8 years ago

      Excellent hub Marisa, you covered Hypertension perfectly and the information might save someones life. Will be sharing this one for sure..Thank you my friend.



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