Normal blood pressure is 120/80. The upper number is called the systolic blood pressure and measures the pressure in your blood vessels when the heart beats. The lower number is called diastolic and measures the pressure in your blood vessels between beats when the heart relaxes.
The higher the number, the greater the pressure your heart needs to pump the blood. High blood pressure for most adults is defined as 140/90 or higher, and as new guidelines have suggested for those over 60 years of age, 150/90 or higher.
The most common type of high blood pressure is called primary hypertension and has no known cause. The less common type is called secondary hypertension — which is usually caused by something such as kidney abnormalities, congenital heart defects, certain medications, and recreational drugs.
Blood pressure should be checked in children during their well child exams, beginning at age three, and every one to two years thereafter. If one has a family history of hypertension and especially as one gets older, blood pressure should be checked more often.
Many local pharmacies offer on-site blood pressure machines for your convenience; however, it is preferable for the sake of accuracy and consistency to have your healthcare provider check your blood pressure.
Some people suffer from “white coat hypertension,” which is a falsely elevated blood pressure in the doctor’s office brought on by anxiety. These people — and others who so desire — can measure their blood pressure at home with the use of a blood pressure monitor, which can be purchased from most pharmacies.
When checking your blood pressure at home, remain seated with legs uncrossed for several minutes and avoid caffeine, alcohol, and exercise for at least 30 minutes prior to taking your blood pressure.
Some people with high blood pressure have no symptoms while others may have headaches, dizziness, or nosebleeds.
Risk factors for high blood pressure include increasing age, family history, and race. Women are more likely to develop hypertension after menopause.
Complications of high blood pressure include heart attack, heart failure, stroke, and kidney and eye disease. When treated timely and properly, these complications occur much less frequently.
Life style changes can help to control and prevent high blood pressure — here’s what you can do:
– Eat healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and less saturated fat.
– Lose weight if you are overweight.
– Limit salt intake.
– Limit alcohol. If you drink, do so in moderation.
– Don’t smoke.
– Participate in regular physical activity.
– Manage stress.
Controlling your blood pressure will go a long way to insure a longer and healthier life.