What is high BP?
High BP (also called hypertension) occurs when your blood moves through your arteries at a higher pressure than normal. If your BP gets too high or stays high for a long time, it can cause health problems.
What are the symptoms of high BP?
Most people who have high BP do not have any symptoms. This is why it’s sometimes called “the silent killer” and explains why it’s so important to have your BP checked regularly.
What causes high BP?
In general, there are 2 types of high BP:
- Primary hypertension, also called essential hypertension, is when there is no known cause for your high BP. This type of BP usually takes many years to develop and probably is a result of your lifestyle, environment, and how your body changes as you age.
- Secondary hypertension is when a health problem or medicine is causing your high BP. Things that can cause secondary hypertension include:
- Certain medicines, such as birth control pills, NSAIDs (a type of pain reliever), and corticosteroids
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Kidney problems
- Sleep apnea
- Thyroid or adrenal gland problems
What are the risk factors for high BP?
- A diet high in salt, fat or cholesterol
- Chronic conditions such as kidney and hormone problems, diabetes, and high cholesterol
- Family history
- Lack of physical activity
- Older age
- Tobacco use or drinking too much alcohol
How is high BP diagnosed?
The only way to know whether your BP is too high is to check it with a BP monitor. Your doctor will measure your BP at more than one visit to see if you have high BP. When you first start treatment to lower your BP, your doctor may want you to come to the clinic regularly. Your BP will be checked at the clinic. You may also be asked to check your BP at home.
What do the numbers mean?
BP is really two measurements, separated by a slash when written, such as 120/80. You may also hear someone say a BP is “120 over 80.” The first number is the systolic BP. This is the peak BP when your heart is squeezing blood out. The second number is the diastolic BP. It’s the pressure when your heart is filling with blood relaxing between beats. A normal BP is less than 120/80. High BP is 140/90 or higher. If your BP is between 120/80 and 140/90, you have what is called “prehypertension”, which means that if you don’t take important steps, your elevated BP can turn into high BP.
How is it treated?
You and your doctor will work together to find the best way to lower your BP. Treatment usually begins with changes you can make to your lifestyle to help lower your BP and reduce your risk of heart disease. If these changes don’t work, you may also need to take medicine.Don’t stop taking the medicine without talking with your family doctor, or you may increase your risk of having a kidney failure, stroke or heart attack.
- Don’t smoke cigarettes or use any tobacco products.
- Lose weight if you’re overweight.
- Exercise regularly.
- Eat a healthy diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables and is low in fat.
- Limit your sodium, alcohol, and caffeine intake.
- Try relaxation techniques or biofeedback.