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High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure (HBP)—also called hypertension—is a condition in which the force of blood pushing against the walls of arteries and other blood vessels is abnormally or dangerously high. High blood pressure can be mild or severe and short-lived or chronic, but it is very common and affects up to 1 in 3 American adults, tens of millions of whom remain unaware, undiagnosed, or untreated once diagnosed. Left untreated, chronic high blood pressure can cause lasting damage to sensitive tissues in the arteries, increasing a person’s risk of heart attack, stroke, and vascular disease. Fortunately, high blood pressure can be treated through a combination of dietary changes, healthy lifestyle choices, and prescription medications.
Measuring Blood Pressure
Blood pressure consists of two components: diastolic pressure (the pressure in the arteries when the heart is resting between beats) and systolic pressure (the maximum blood pressure when the heart is actively pumping blood to the arteries). Blood pressure is reported as two numbers such as “120/80” with systolic being the higher number. The difference between the two numbers is the “pulse pressure” which should ideally be around 40. Normal blood pressure should be somewhere between 90/60 and 120/80—never significantly higher. Any blood pressure above 140/90 is concerning, while a blood pressure of 180/120 or above is a hypertensive crisis and requires immediate medical attention.
Most cases of high blood pressure may have few to no noticeable symptoms, hence why this condition has been dubbed a “silent killer”. Symptoms of severe high blood pressure may include severe headaches, nosebleeds, fatigue or confusion, numbness or weakness, vision problems, chest or upper back pain, shortness of breath, difficulty speaking, or heart arrythmia. Talk with your doctor about how often to have your blood pressure checked and whether to check it at home. You should be under regular daily monitoring if your blood pressure is high (above either or both of 140 diastolic and 90 systolic). Keep in mind that anxiety, caffeine, cigarettes, and some medications can temporarily raise blood pressure so you might only need to be concerned if you have a high reading when unaffected by these other factors.
Treatment & Care
Although there is no known cure for high blood pressure, there are ways to manage the condition and to reduce the risk of developing it. Doctors recommend limiting alcohol consumption, exercising daily, eating plenty of nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, cutting back on “junk foods”, reducing sodium intake, and consuming plenty of calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D. If you are or think you might be suffering from high blood pressure, try scheduling an online doctor visit for high blood pressure to get access to rapid assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and even prescriptions for high blood pressure. In an emergency case such as with severe symptoms or a blood pressure of 180/120 or above, call 9-1-1 immediately.