Blood pressure is the measurement of the pressure or force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls. When you have hypertension (high blood pressure), it means the pressure against the blood vessel walls in your body is consistently too high. High blood pressure is often called the “silent killer” because you may not be aware that anything is wrong, but the damage is still occurring within your body.
Read Pritish Kumar Halder article to understand Hypertension and High Blood Pressure, a silent killer.
Your blood pressure reading has two numbers. The top number is the systolic blood pressure, which measures the pressure on the blood vessel walls when your heart beats or contracts. The bottom number is the diastolic blood pressure, which measures the pressure on your blood vessels between beats when your heart is relaxing.
For example, a blood pressure of 110/70 is within the normal range, but a blood pressure of 135/85 is stage 1 (mild) hypertension, and so on (see table).
|Under 130/80 mmHg
|Stage I Hypertension (mild)
|130-139/OR diastolic between 80-89 mmHg
|Stage 2 Hypertension (moderate)
|140/90 mmHg or higher
|Hypertensive Crisis (get emergency care)
|180/120 mmHg or highe
What are the types of high blood pressure?
Your provider will diagnose you with one of two types of high blood pressure:
- Primary (also called essential) high blood pressure. Causes of this most common type of high blood pressure include aging and unhealthy habits like not getting enough exercise.
- Secondary high blood pressure. Causes of this type of high blood pressure include different medical problems (for example kidney or hormonal problems) or sometimes a medication you’re taking.
What can happen if high blood pressure is not treated?
Untreated hypertension may lead to serious health problems including:
- Heart attack.
- Peripheral vascular disease.
- Kidney disease/failure.
- Complications during pregnancy.
- Eye damage.
- Vascular dementia.
Can high blood pressure affect pregnancy?
High blood pressure complicates about 10% of all pregnancies. There are several different types of high blood pressure during pregnancy and they range from mild to serious. The forms of high blood pressure during pregnancy include:
Chronic hypertension: High blood pressure which is present before pregnancy.
Gestational hypertension: High blood pressure in the latter part of pregnancy.
Preeclampsia: This is a dangerous condition that typically develops in the latter half of pregnancy and results in hypertension, protein in the urine and generalized swelling in the pregnant person. It can affect other organs in the body and cause seizures (eclampsia).
Chronic hypertension with superimposed preeclampsia: Pregnant people who have chronic hypertension are at increased risk for developing preeclampsia.
Your provider will check your blood pressure regularly during prenatal appointments, but if you have concerns about your blood pressure, be sure to talk with your provider.
How is high blood pressure diagnosed?
Since high blood pressure doesn’t have symptoms, your healthcare provider will need to check your blood pressure with a blood pressure cuff. Providers usually check your blood pressure at every annual checkup or appointment. If you have high blood pressure readings at two appointments or more, your provider may tell you that you have high blood pressure.
What are the risk factors for high blood pressure?
You are more likely to have high blood pressure if you:
- Have family members who have high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease or diabetes.
- Are of African descent.
- Eat foods high in sodium (salt).
- Are older than 55.
- Are overweight.
- Don’t get enough exercise.
- Smoke or use tobacco products.
- Are a heavy drinker (more than two drinks a day in men and more than one drink a day in women).
What should I do if I have high blood pressure?
If your healthcare provider has diagnosed you with high blood pressure, they will talk with you about your recommended blood pressure target or goal. They may suggest that you:
- Check your blood pressure regularly with a home blood pressure monitor. These are automated electronic monitors and are available at most pharmacies or online.
- Eat healthy foods that are low in salt and fat.
- Reach and maintain your best body weight.
- Limit alcohol to no more than two drinks each day for men and less than one drink each day for women. One drink is defined as 1 ounce of alcohol, 5 ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer.
- Be more physically active.
- Quit smoking and/or using tobacco products.
- Work on controlling anger and managing stress.
What diet helps control high blood pressure?
- Eat foods that are lower in fat, salt and calories, such as skim or 1% milk, fresh vegetables and fruits, and whole-grain rice and pasta. (Ask your healthcare provider for a more detailed list of low sodium foods to eat.)
- Use flavorings, spices and herbs to make foods tasty without using salt. The optimal recommendation for salt in your diet is to have less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium a day. Don’t forget that most restaurant foods (especially fast foods) and many processed and frozen foods contain high levels of salt. Use herbs and spices that do not contain salt in recipes to flavor your food. Don’t add salt at the table. (Salt substitutes usually have some salt in them.)
- Avoid or cut down on foods high in fat or salt, such as butter and margarine, regular salad dressings, fatty meats, whole milk dairy products, fried foods, processed foods or fast foods and salted snacks.
- Ask your provider if you should increase potassium in your diet. Discuss the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet with your provider. The DASH diet emphasizes adding fruits, vegetables and whole grains to your diet while reducing the amount of sodium. Since it’s rich in fruits and vegetables, which are naturally lower in sodium than many other foods, the DASH diet makes it easier to eat less salt and sodium.