High Blood Pressure
Diagnosing High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure can only be diagnosed after taking several readings to find your average blood pressure. To determine your average blood pressure, your blood pressure needs to be taken two or more times, and each reading must be from a different day. If the average of these readings is more than 140/90, you have high blood pressure.
A single reading that is more than 140/90 doesn't necessarily mean that you have high blood pressure; however, your healthcare provider will probably want to monitor your blood pressure over time to see if it stays there. You can also have high blood pressure if the average of only one of the numbers (systolic or diastolic) is too high.
Effects of High Blood Pressure
The body structures that chronic (long-term) high blood pressure affects most include the:
- Blood vessels
Because of the effects of high blood pressure on these vital organs, a person who has had it for a long time (known as chronic hypertension) can have:
- A heart attack
- Congestive heart failure (CHF)
- A stroke or "mini stroke" -- also known as a "TIA" (transient ischemic attack)
- Eye damage with loss of vision
- Kidney failure
- Peripheral arterial disease, including bulges or outpouchings of the aorta (called aneurysms).
Treating High Blood Pressure
Hypertension research scientists have found certain lifestyle changes that can lower blood pressure. If lifestyle changes alone cannot lower blood pressure to a "normal" level, blood pressure medication can be prescribed.
Lifestyle changes are the first form of high blood pressure treatment. They usually help improve a person's quality of life as well. It may take three to six months before your healthcare provider sees the full benefit of lifestyle changes in your condition. Some of these changes may include:
- Weight loss (see Weight and High Blood Pressure)
- Exercise (see Exercise and High Blood Pressure)
- Cutting down the salt in your diet (see Salt and High Blood Pressure)
- Following a diet that emphasizes fruits and vegetables while reducing fats and cholesterol (see High Blood Pressure Diet)
- Drinking less alcohol (see Alcohol and High Blood Pressure).
Other lifestyle factors that may influence blood pressure and that should be reduced or stopped completely include smoking and prolonged stress (see Smoking and High Blood Pressure or Stress and High Blood Pressure).
By lowering blood pressure, people can reduce the long-term effects of hypertension, including heart attacks, stroke, and kidney failure.