Blood pressure is the measurement of the pressure or force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls. In hypertension (high blood pressure) the pressure against the blood vessel walls is consistently too high. This diagnosis is often called the “silent killer” because you may not be aware that anything is wrong, but the damage is occurring within your body.
Your blood pressure reading has two numbers. The first is the systolic, which measures the pressure on the blood vessel walls when your heart beats. The second number is the diastolic, which measures the pressure on your blood vessels between beats when the heart is at rest. Normal blood pressure is classified as less than 120/80 mmHg, “pre-hypertension” as 120-139/80-89 mmHg, and “hypertension” as greater than 140/90 mmHg. All patients with blood pressure readings greater than 120/80 should be encouraged to make lifestyle modifications. Treatment with medicine is recommended to lower blood pressure to less than 140/90 mmHg. For patients who have diabetes, or chronic kidney disease, the recommended blood pressure is less than 130/80 mmHg.
How did I get hypertension?
Hypertension can occur as the result of a combination of risk factors, both modifiable and non-modifiable, which may include the following:
- Familial history of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease or diabetes
- Race, with it being more common in African Americans
- Women who are pregnant or take birth control pills
- People over the age of 35
- Those who are overweight or obese
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Poor diet consisting of foods high in fat or salt
- Cigarette smoking