High blood pressure (hypertension) is a serious condition that affects one in three adults in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It’s called the “silent killer” because people often have no symptoms, yet it can lead to some serious and sometimes even fatal conditions.
Your blood moves through your body at a certain rate. According to the American Heart Association, a blood pressure reading of less than 120/80 mmHg is considered normal. When you have high blood pressure, your blood moves through your arteries at a higher pressure, putting more pressure on the delicate tissues and damaging your blood vessels. You are diagnosed with high blood pressure (hypertension) if your blood pressure readings are consistently above 140/90 mmHg.
Causes of High Blood Pressure
For most cases of high blood pressure there is no known cause. This is called primary hypertension. For others, certain medical conditions like kidney or heart conditions can cause high blood pressure. This is called secondary hypertension. Some medications like birth control pills or over-the-counter cold medicines can cause high blood pressure as well. Blood pressure may or may not return to normal upon discontinuation of the medication.
High Blood Pressure Risk Factors
There are many risk factors for high blood pressure. Some factors you can’t change. Others are modifiable based on your lifestyle. Risk factors you cannot change include:
Factors that are modifiable include:
Diagnosing High Blood Pressure
Your doctor can diagnose if you have high blood pressure by simply using a blood pressure monitor to measure your blood pressure. This monitor records your systolic blood pressure (SBP), the top number, and your diastolic blood pressure (DBP), the bottom number. There are a few types of high blood pressure depending on severity. They are:
Your doctor will also review your health history and risk factors and perform a physical exam to make a diagnosis.
High Blood Pressure Tests and Treatments
The test to determine if you have high blood pressure is simple and non-invasive. Your doctor will measure your blood pressure using a monitor with a cuff. Your doctor may do this several times over a few appointments to get an accurate reading because your blood pressure can change depending upon many factors, some as simple as your mood at the time the measurement is taken. Your doctor may also order: