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High blood pressure, or hypertension, means that the pressure of blood against the artery walls is elevated. High blood pressure is the most common chronic adult illness in the United States.
It is a dangerous condition that can lead to stroke, blindness, arterial disease, kidney failure, heart attack and heart failure.
There is no cure for high blood pressure, but it can be controlled.
In most people, the exact cause of high blood pressure is not known. A small number of people have secondary hypertension, which is high blood pressure caused by medication or another medical condition such as renal disease or atherosclerosis.
Certain risk factors make it more likely that you will develop hypertension:
These risk factors can't be changed, but some lifestyle factors, such as being overweight, smoking, consuming too much salt, getting too little exercise or consuming too much alcohol, can be controlled.
At Dignity Health Heart and Vascular Institute of Greater Sacramento, we offer a number of preventative health programs and tools for our patients. Find out more about how we can help you Stay Heart Healthy.
High blood pressure usually does not cause symptoms; the only way to know if you have it is to have your blood pressure checked. Usually, three measurements that show high blood pressure on three occasions are needed to diagnose hypertension.
Blood pressure measurements are expressed using two numbers, one written over the other. The top number is the systolic blood pressure; it is the pressure of blood against the artery walls when the heart is contracting and pushing blood out. The lower number is the diastolic blood pressure; it is the pressure of blood against artery walls when the heart is resting and filling with blood between heartbeats.
Optimal blood pressure is less than 120/80.
You have hypertension if your resting systolic pressure is consistently 140 or greater and/or your diastolic pressure is consistently 90 or greater.
A systolic pressure of 120 to 139 and a diastolic pressure of 80 to 89 is considered pre-hypertension and means you are at risk for high blood pressure.
Treatment decisions are based on:
Your doctor may give you medications right away or may have you try lifestyle changes such as regular exercise or change in diet for up to one year. Depending on your treatment plan and medications prescribed, your doctor will tell you how often to have your blood pressure checked.
Check out our Tools for Heart Health and Patient Classes for eating well and staying fit.
In addition to the treatment options above, there are steps that you can take to reduce your high blood pressure and cardiovascular risk:
After your blood pressure is controlled, you should continue to have it checked regularly. Usually, you will not have any symptoms to tell you if your blood pressure is elevated. See your doctor at least once a year to make sure your blood pressure is under control.