Blood Pressure is the measure of the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps. High Blood Pressure refers to a level of force that is higher than normal. High blood pressure (HBP) is a serious condition that over time can lead to coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, and other health problems.
Measuring Blood Pressure
Blood pressure consists of 2 numbers: Systolic and Diastolic pressures.
Systolic blood pressure is the pressure measured when the heart beats or pumps.
Diastolic blood pressure is the pressure when the heart is at rest between beats.
Blood pressure is measured in mmHg, which is “millimetres of mercury”.
The table below shows which blood pressure numbers are considered normal, and which numbers indicate a greater risk for health problems. (The ranges in the table apply to most adults aged 18 and older who don’t have short-term serious illnesses.) The ranges for children are different.
Categories for Blood Pressure Levels in Adults (in mmHg, or millimetres of mercury)
||Diastolic (bottom number)
||Less than 120
||Less than 80
|High blood pressure
||160 or higher
||100 or higher
All levels above 120/80 mmHg raise your risk of developing health problems, and the risk grows as blood pressure levels rise.
“Pre-hypertension” means you’re likely to end up with HBP, unless you take steps to prevent it. People who have HBP can take steps to control it and reduce their risks for related health problems. Key steps include losing weight, quitting smoking, following a healthy lifestyle, having regular medical care, and following the treatment plan that your doctor prescribes.
What Causes High Blood Pressure?
- Being Overweight or Obese -You’re more likely to develop pre-hypertension or HBP if you’re overweight or obese.
- Age–Blood pressure tends to rise with age. Men older than 45 and women older than 55 are at increased risk for HBP. Isolated Systolic Hypertension (ISH) is the most common form of HBP in older adults and affects about 2/3 of people over age 60 who have HBP.
HBP is becoming more common in children and teens as a result of lifestyle-related choices, and they need to have routine blood pressure checks. This is even more important if a young person is overweight.
- Medical Conditions -Certain medical problems, such as chronic kidney disease, thyroid disease, and sleep apnea may cause blood pressure to rise.
- Medications – Certain medicines, such as asthma medicines (for example, corticosteroids) can elevate blood pressure. Even some cold-remedy products may raise blood pressure, but this usually temporary.
- Race/Ethnicity – HBP can affect anyone. However, it occurs more frequently in African American adults than in Caucasian or Hispanic American adults.
- Gender– HBP affects more men under 60 years old than women, but women aged 60 and older are just as likely as men to be aware of and treated for HBP. Furthermore, among treated women aged 60 and older, the success rate of maintaining blood pressure control is lower than it is in men in the same age group. In some women, using birth control pills, become pregnant, or being on hormone therapy can elevate blood pressure.
- Unhealthy Lifestyle Habits– A number of lifestyle habits can raise your risk for HBP, including:
- Eating too much sodium (salt)
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Not getting enough potassium in your diet
- Not doing enough physical activity
- Other Risk Factors
- If your family has a history of HBP, your risk for developing HBP may be increased.
- Long-lasting stress also can put you at risk for HBP.
- You’re also more likely to develop HBP if you have pre-hypertension. Pre-hypertension means that your blood pressure is in the 120–139 / 80–89 mmHg range.
Signs and Symptoms of High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure (HBP) itself usually has no symptoms. It can take years before the symptoms of HBP become apparent, but during this time, HBP can damage the heart, blood vessels, kidneys, and other parts of the body, leading up to problems including coronary heart disease, kidney failure or stroke.
Knowing your blood pressure numbers is important, even when you’re feeling well. If your blood pressure is normal, you can work with your health care team to keep it that way. If your numbers are too high, you can take steps to lower them and control your blood pressure and reduce your risk for complications.
Complications of High Blood Pressure
- With sustained HBP, the heart can become larger or weaker, and unable to pump enough blood through the body. This is heart failure.
- Aneurysms can form in blood vessels and are commonly found in the walls of arteries that carry blood from the heart to areas including the brain, legs, intestines and the spleen. Aneurysms are a swelling or ballooning of the blood vessels, and when ruptured, are usually fatal.
- Blood vessels in the kidneys can become narrow and cause kidney failure.
- Arteries throughout the body can become narrow in some places, limiting blood flow. This can cause a heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, or require amputation of part of the leg.
- Blood vessels in the eyes may burst or bleed, impairing vision or causing blindness.
How Is High Blood Pressure Diagnosed?
Your doctor will diagnose high blood pressure (HBP) using the results of a series of blood pressure tests. If your blood pressure is 140/90 mmHg or higher over time, your doctor will likely diagnose you with HBP. If you have diabetes or chronic kidney disease, a blood pressure of 130/80 mmHg or higher is considered HBP.
Diagnosing High Blood Pressure in Children and Teens
Doctors measure blood pressure in children and teens in the same way as in adults. The ranges for normal blood pressure and HBP are generally lower for youth than for adults, and normally rise with age and growth. Newborn babies often have very low blood pressure numbers, while older teens have numbers similar to adults.
Treatment for High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure (HBP) is treated with lifestyle changes and medicines. Most people who have HBP will need lifelong treatment, but adhering to your treatment plan can delay or even prevent the problems linked to HBP and help you live longer and enjoy a better quality of life.
One of the safest and most effective ways to treat or prevent HBP is to make healthy lifestyle changes. These can include:
- Maintain a Healthy Weight – Losing weight is the easiest and simplest form of treatment to control blood pressure and other health related problems. You should always try to maintain a normal healthy weight and BMI score of 25 or lower, but any significant weight loss can help lower your health risk.
BMI, or Body Mass Index, is a ratio of your weight in relation to your height and gives an estimate of your total body fat. A BMI below 25 is the goal for keeping blood pressure under control. A BMI between 25 and 29 is considered overweight. A BMI of 30 or more is considered obese.
- Quit Smoking – Smoking damages your blood vessels and increases your risk for HBP. It can also worsen health problems related to HBP. The sooner you quit smoking, the sooner your body can begin to heal.
- Follow a Healthy Eating Plan – What you eat is vital to maintaining a healthy weight and healthy bodily functions. Eating too much salt (sodium), fat, and alcohol can increase blood pressure and your risk for developing HBP and its complications.
- Be Active – Regular physical activity can lower HBP and also reduce your risk for other health problems. Check with your doctor about how much and what kinds of activity are safe for you. Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, try to get at least 30 minutes of moderately intense activity on most days of the week. These activities can include brisk walking, dancing, riding a bike, gardening, and cleaning the house. If your doctor approves, you also may want to do more intense activities, such as jogging, swimming, and playing sports.
- Managing Stress Levels – Learning how to manage stress, relax and cope with problems can improve your emotional and physical health. Physical activity helps some people cope with stress. Other people listen to music or practice yoga, tai chi, or meditation.
Combining these measures can achieve even better results. Making lifestyle changes can be difficult and frustrating but will become easier over time with perseverance and support. Start by making one healthy lifestyle change and then adopt others. If your doctor prescribes medicines as a part of your treatment plan, keep up your healthy habits along with the medications. This will help you better control your blood pressure.
Today’s blood pressure medicines can safely help most people control their blood pressures with little to no side effects. Blood pressure medicines work in different ways to lower blood pressure. Some remove extra fluid and salt from the body to lower blood pressure. Others slow down the heartbeat or relax and widen blood vessels. Often, two or more medicines are prescribed together.
The Dr. Bernstein diet program is a medically supervised weight loss program which is a safe and effective method to reduce body fat. The Dr. Bernstein Diet is designed for anyone who needs to lose weight and lead a healthy life. With this diet program, over 90% of our patients stop the use of all HBP medication when they reach their expected goal weight. The program includes a restricted diet with vitamin and mineral supplementation, education and behavioural and lifestyle modification.