Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of the arteries. The heart creates this force as it contracts and as it rests between contractions.
How is blood pressure measured?
Blood pressure incorporates two measures:
Systolic blood pressure is the pressure against artery walls as the heart contracts (or beats) and pushes blood into the arteries. This is the top or first number in a blood pressure reading.
Diastolic blood pressure is the pressure against artery walls between heart contractions. This is the bottom or second number in a blood pressure reading.>
What is hypertension?
Hypertension is a medical diagnosis of high blood pressure, which is made if the systolic number or the diastolic number stays higher than normal most of the time. In this condition, the heart has to pump harder to move blood through the body, adding to the workload of the heart and blood vessels. Hypertension can damage the blood vessels and heart, increasing the risk of stroke, heart disease (including heart attack), and kidney disease.
Individuals in the early stages of high blood pressure generally have no symptoms or warning signals. Contrary to popular belief, headaches or nosebleeds are not usually symptoms of the early stages of high blood pressure. The only reliable way to know if you have or are developing high blood pressure is to have it checked.
What should my blood pressure be? >
Blood pressure goes up and down depending on what you are doing. It may rise during periods of excitement, nervousness, or exercise and decrease during sleep.
If you are between ages 18 and 60, blood pressure should be below 140 mm Hg systolic and 90 mm Hg diastolic. If you are older than 60 without diabetes or chronic kidney disease, blood pressure should be below 150 mm Hg systolic and 90 mm HG diastolic.
How is hypertension treated?
High blood pressure usually cannot be cured, but it can be controlled with proper treatment. Treatment options including changing diet/exercise habits and medications. However it usually requires lifelong medication for those individuals whose blood pressure is definitely abnormal.
If your clinician prescribes one or more medications for you, it is important that you take them regularly (not just when you remember it or feel bad). Controlling high blood pressure can help prevent heart disease, kidney disease and stroke. Discuss any side effects with your health care provider, because many can be prevented by a change in medication dosage or type.