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About High Blood Pressure

What Does High Blood Pressure Mean?

The best way to determine whether or not you have high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure checked. A normal reading should be less than 120 systolic (the upper number) and less than 80 diastolic (the lower number).

Readings between 120–129 systolic and less than 80 diastolic are considered elevated. Any reading above these numbers is considered to be in the high range.

Pressure Category Systolic Blood Pressure Diastolic Blood Pressure
Normal Less than 120 Less than 80
Elevated 120- 29 Less than 80
High Blood Pressure 130-139 80-89
Stage 1 High Blood Pressure 90 or higher 140 or higher
Stage 2 Hypertensive Crisis
(Seek immediate medical care)
Higher than 180 Higher than 120

What Is Diastolic Blood Pressure?

The diastolic number in a blood pressure reading refers to the bottom number. This represents the pressure in the arteries when the heart is at rest between beats (that is, refilling with blood between contractions).  A normal diastolic reading should be below 80. Anything above this is considered high.

Signs and Symptoms of High Blood Pressure

What Are Common Signs and Symptoms of High Blood Pressure?

In most cases, there are no noticeable high blood pressure symptoms. In fact, the condition is known as “the silent killer” due its lack of obvious symptoms. Certain physical traits and lifestyle choices, however, may increase your risk.

Left untreated, high blood pressure can significantly damage your circulatory system, contributing to heart attack, stroke, and other serious health concerns. A link has also been shown between high cholesterol and high blood pressure. This results when the buildup of plaque in the arteries due to cholesterol narrows the pathway for blood to flow, causing the heart to pump harder.

Although high blood pressure is usually a chronic condition, causing damage over time, sometimes levels rise so quickly that they create a medical emergency. When this happens, high blood pressure symptoms indicate a need for immediate treatment—or even hospitalization.

Emergency High Blood Pressure Symptoms Include:

  • Memory loss
  • Personality changes
  • Difficulty concentrating, irritability, or loss of consciousness
  • Stroke
  • Aortic dissection (severe damage to the body’s main artery)
  • Chest pain and heart attack
  • Impaired pumping of the heart
  • Sudden loss of kidney function
  • Pregnancy complications, such as preeclampsia or eclampsia

How Do Side Effects of High Blood Pressure Affect Your Health?

Left uncontrolled, high blood pressure can damage the heart, arteries, brain, kidneys, and eyes, as well as contribute to sexual dysfunction. It’s also possible to develop a disability, experience poor quality of life, or even suffer a fatal heart attack. Roughly half of all people with untreated hypertension die from related heart disease. Another third die from stroke.


How to Lower High Blood Pressure?

In addition to taking medication, making healthy lifestyle changes can help to keep your blood pressure under control and reduce the risk of life-threatening complications.

Ask your MD Now provider for suggestions on how to lower high blood pressure to reduce, or possibly even eliminate, the need to take medication. You may be advised to try some of the following recommendations:

  • Weight loss
  • Regular exercise
  • A low-sodium diet
  • Other healthy diet changes
  • Caffeine reduction
  • Reducing alcohol consumption
  • Smoking cessation
  • Stress management
  • Regular blood pressure monitoring
  • Getting support from family and friends

What Should a Person with High Blood Pressure Eat?

The best high blood pressure diet is the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). The DASH diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products. It limits saturated fat and cholesterol to help lower your blood pressure. Your MD Now provider may also recommend boosting potassium to lessen the effects of sodium on blood pressure.

Keep in mind, however, that even the best high blood pressure diet is no substitute for regular monitoring. Make sure your diet and lifestyle changes are making a difference by visiting MD Now for regular blood pressure screenings. You can also ask your MD Now provider about blood pressure monitors you can use at home to monitor blood pressure between visits.

What Is the Best Treatment for High Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure treatment usually follows a multi-pronged approach. Depending on your numbers, your MD Now provider may recommend medication. For example, a calcium channel blocker can slow the movement of calcium into the cells of the heart and blood vessel walls. This makes it easier for the heart to pump blood.

An ACE inhibitor, another type of HBP medication, improves blood flow by dilating blood vessels. Beta-blockers treat high blood pressure by blocking the effects of the sympathetic nervous system on the heart. Your MD Now provider may also suggest lifestyle changes like weight loss and exercise.

The content provided on the MD Now website is for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for receiving medical care and treatment from a qualified healthcare provider. Never delay seeking advice, evaluation, and treatment from a medical professional because of what you’ve read on this site, since the information provided may not apply to you or your symptoms.