High Blood Pressure

doctor measuring blood pressure

High blood pressure is a blood pressure reading of 140/90 mmHg or higher.
Both numbers are important.

Nearly one in three American adults has
high blood pressure. Once high blood pressure develops, it usually lasts a
lifetime. The good news is that it can be treated and controlled.

blood pressure is called “the silent killer” because it usually has no symptoms.
Some people may not find out they have it until they have trouble with their
heart, brain, or kidneys. When high blood pressure is not found and treated, it
can cause:

  • The heart to get larger, which may lead to heart failure.
  • Small bulges (aneurysms) to form in blood vessels. Common locations
    are the main artery from the heart (aorta), arteries in the brain, legs, and
    intestines, and the artery leading to the spleen.
  • Blood vessels in the kidney to narrow, which may cause kidney
  • Arteries throughout the body to “harden” faster, especially those in
    the heart, brain, kidneys, and legs. This can cause a heart attack, stroke,
    kidney failure, or amputation of part of the leg.
  • Blood vessels in the eyes to burst or bleed, which may cause vision
    changes and can result in blindness.

What is blood pressure?
Blood is carried from the heart to all
parts of your body in vessels called arteries. Blood pressure is the force of
the blood pushing against the walls of the arteries. Each time the heart beats
(about 60-70 times a minute at rest), it pumps out blood into the arteries. Your
blood pressure is at its highest when the heart beats, pumping the blood. This
is called systolic pressure. When the heart is at rest, between beats, your
blood pressure falls. This is the diastolic pressure.

Blood pressure is
always given as these two numbers, the systolic and diastolic pressures. Both
are important. Usually they are written one above or before the other, such as
120/80 mmHg. The top number is the systolic and the bottom the diastolic. When
the two measurements are written down, the systolic pressure is the first or top
number, and the diastolic pressure is the second or bottom number (for example,
120/80). If your blood pressure is 120/80, you say that it is “120 over 80.”