Your blood pressure is a measurement of the force of your blood pumping through your arteries and veins. Since high blood pressure (hypertension) is a major contributor of heart disease, understanding the causes of hypertension and how to lower your blood pressure are important.
Dignity Health offers treatment for high blood pressure in the Bay Area. If you think you have high blood pressure symptoms, Find a Doctor today. You can also take our quick online heart risk assessment to learn more about your heart health.
Normal vs. High Blood Pressure
Your blood pressure is a combination of two readings:
- Systolic. The top number represents the pressure when your heart is contracting (pumping). Normal systolic blood pressure should be less than 120.
- Diastolic. The bottom number represents the pressure when your heart is relaxing and filling with blood. Normal diastolic blood pressure should be less than 80.
If your blood pressure is consistently above 140/90, you may have hypertension.
High Blood Pressure Symptoms
In rare cases, consistent high blood pressure may cause headaches. However most people with hypertension do not experience symptoms. The first high blood pressure symptom for many people is simply a higher-than-normal blood pressure reading at a doctor’s visit.
What Causes High Blood Pressure?
There are a number of things that increase the risk of high blood pressure, including:
- Genetic predisposition
- An unhealthy diet that’s high in sodium and alcohol
- Lack of physical activity
- Being overweight
- Taking certain medications, including birth control
- Other medical conditions, including sleep apnea, thyroid problems, chronic kidney disease, and certain tumors
High blood pressure also can be a sign of an underlying medical condition, such as an infection. If your blood pressure returns to normal after treatment for an underlying condition, it’s likely you don’t have hypertension.
Diagnosing High Blood Pressure
An occasional high blood pressure reading does not necessarily mean you have hypertension. It’s common for blood pressure to increase when someone is nervous, like when you visit the doctor. This is known as “white coat hypertension,” and it does not necessarily require treatment.
For an accurate diagnosis, it’s best to measure blood pressure at specific intervals over a period of time. Your doctor may ask you to track your own blood pressure at home using a blood pressure monitor, which you can buy at a local pharmacy.
How Dignity Health Can Help You to Lower Blood Pressure
Treatment for hypertension is based on your specific diagnosis but usually includes lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet, drinking less alcohol, getting regular exercise and learning ways to cope with stress. If necessary, your doctor may prescribe blood pressure medication.
Dignity Health offers comprehensive high blood pressure treatment in San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and Redwood City.