Use this blood pressure diary for at home testing and keeping track of your health. Bringing important information like your daily blood pressure to your cardiologist can help us better understand the state of your health which will assist us in your diagnoses and treatment planning. Below you will find vital information on High Blood Pressure

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High blood pressure (HBP) is a serious condition that can lead to coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, and other health problems.

"Blood pressure" is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps out blood. If this pressure rises and stays high over time, it can damage the body in many ways.

About 1 in 3 adults in the United States has HBP. HBP itself usually has no symptoms. You can have it for years without knowing it. During this time, though, it can damage the heart, blood vessels, kidneys, and other parts of your body.

Blood Pressure Numbers

You will most often see blood pressure numbers written with the systolic number above or before the diastolic, such as 120/80 mmHg. (The mmHg is millimeters of mercury—the units used to measure blood pressure.)

Categories for Blood Pressure Levels in Adults (in mmHg, or millimeters of mercury)

CategorySystolic
(top number)
Diastolic
(bottom number)
NormalLess than 120AndLess than 80
Prehypertension120–139Or80–89
High blood pressure
 Stage 1140–159Or90–99
Stage 2160 or higherOr100 or higher

All levels above 120/80 mmHg raise your risk, and the risk grows as blood pressure levels rise. "Prehypertension" means you're likely to end up with HBP, unless you take steps to prevent it.

Your systolic and diastolic numbers may not be in the same blood pressure category. In this case, the more severe category is the one you're in. For example, if your systolic number is 160 and your diastolic number is 80, you have stage 2 HBP. If your systolic number is 120 and your diastolic number is 95, you have stage 1 HBP.

If you have diabetes or chronic kidney disease, HBP is defined as 130/80 mmHg or higher. HBP numbers also differ for children and teens. (For more information, see "How Is High Blood Pressure Diagnosed?")

Blood pressure tends to rise with age. Following a healthy lifestyle helps some people delay or prevent this rise in blood pressure.

Signs and Symptoms

You can have HBP for years without knowing it. During this time, HBP can damage the heart, blood vessels, kidneys, and other parts of the body.

Knowing your blood pressure numbers is important, even when you're feeling fine. If your blood pressure is normal, you can work with your health care team to keep it that way. If your numbers are too high, you can take steps to lower them and control your blood pressure. This helps reduce your risk for complications.

When blood pressure stays high over time, it can damage the body. HBP can cause:

  • Aneurysms (AN-u-risms) to form in blood vessels. An aneurysm is an abnormal bulge or "ballooning" in the wall of an artery. Common spots for aneurysms are the main artery that carries blood from the heart to the body; the arteries in the brain, legs, and intestines; and the artery leading to the spleen.
  • Arteries throughout the body to narrow in some places, which limits blood flow (especially to the heart, brain, kidneys, and legs). This can cause a heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, or amputation of part of the leg.
  • Diagnosis

If your blood pressure is 140/90 mmHg or higher over time, your doctor will likely diagnose you with HBP. If you have diabetes or chronic kidney disease, a blood pressure of 130/80 mmHg or higher is considered HBP.

How Is Blood Pressure Tested?

To prepare for the test:

  • Go to the bathroom before the test. Having a full bladder can change your blood pressure reading.
  • To measure your blood pressure, your doctor or nurse will use some type of a gauge, a stethoscope (or electronic sensor), and a blood pressure cuff.

Diagnosing High Blood Pressure in Children and Teens

Blood pressure normally rises with age and body size. Newborn babies often have very low blood pressure numbers, while older teens have numbers similar to adults.

To find out whether a child has HBP, a doctor will compare the child's blood pressure numbers to average numbers for his or her age, height, and gender.

For more information, see the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's "A Pocket Guide to Blood Pressure Measurement in Children."

If you're diagnosed with HBP, you will need treatment. You also will need to have your blood pressure tested again to see how treatment affects it.

Once your blood pressure is under control, you will need to stay on treatment. "Under control" means that your blood pressure numbers are normal. You also will need regular blood pressure tests. Your doctor can tell you how often you should be tested.

Treatment

Most people who have HBP will need lifelong treatment. Sticking to your treatment plan is important. It can prevent or delay the problems linked to HBP and help you live and stay active longer.

For more tips on controlling your blood pressure, see the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's (NHLBI's) "Your Guide to Lowering Blood Pressure."

The treatment goal for most adults is to get and keep blood pressure below

Lifestyle Changes

If you combine these measures, you can achieve even better results than taking single steps. Making lifestyle changes can be hard. Start by making one healthy lifestyle change and then adopt others.

Follow a Healthy Eating Plan

This eating plan is low in fat and cholesterol. It also features fat-free or low-fat milk and dairy products, fish, poultry, and nuts. The DASH eating plan suggests less red meat (even lean red meat), sweets, added sugars, and sugar-containing beverages. The plan is rich in nutrients, protein, and fiber.

To help control HBP, you should limit the amount of salt that you eat. This means choosing low-salt and "no added salt" foods and seasonings at the table or when cooking. The Nutrition Facts label on food packaging shows the amount of sodium in the item. You should eat no more than about 1 teaspoon of salt a day.

For more information on limiting salt and alcohol in your diet, see the Your Guide to Lowering High Blood Pressure Web site.

Regular physical activity can lower HBP and also reduce your risk for other health problems.

Moderate-intensity activities include brisk walking, dancing, bowling, riding a bike, working in a garden, and cleaning the house.

If your doctor agrees, you also may want to do more intense activities, such as jogging, swimming, and playing sports. For more information, see the NHLBI's "Your Guide to Physical Activity and Your Heart."

Staying at a healthy weight can help control blood pressure and also reduce your risk for other health problems.

After the first year, you may have to continue to lose weight so you can lower your body mass index (BMI) to less than 25.

You can measure your BMI using the NHLBI's online calculator, or your health care provider can help.

Quit Smoking

If you smoke or use tobacco, quit. Talk to your doctor about programs and products that can help you quit. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has information on how to quit smoking. Also, take steps to protect yourself from secondhand smoke.

Learning how to manage stress, relax, and cope with problems can improve your emotional and physical health.

Medicines

If you have side effects from your medicines, talk to your doctor. He or she may be able to adjust the doses or prescribe other medicines. You shouldn't decide on your own to stop taking your medicines.

Diuretics

Diuretics often are used with other HBP medicines and sometimes combined into one pill.

Beta blockers help your heart beat slower and with less force. Your heart pumps less blood through your blood vessels, and your blood pressure goes down.

ACE inhibitors keep your body from making a hormone called angiotensin II. This hormone normally causes blood vessels to narrow. ACE inhibitors prevent this, so your blood pressure goes down.

Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) are newer blood pressure medicines that protect your blood vessels from angiotensin II. As a result, blood vessels relax and widen, and your blood pressure goes down.

Calcium channel blockers (CCBs) keep calcium from entering the muscle cells of your heart and blood vessels. This allows blood vessels to relax, and your blood pressure goes down.

Alpha blockers reduce nerve impulses that tighten blood vessels. This allows blood to flow more freely, causing blood pressure to go down.

Alpha-beta blockers reduce nerve impulses the same way alpha blockers do. However, they also slow the heartbeat like beta blockers. As a result, blood pressure goes down.

Nervous system inhibitors increase nerve impulses from the brain to relax and widen blood vessels. This causes blood pressure to go down.

Vasodilators relax the muscles in blood vessel walls. This causes blood pressure to go down.

If another condition is causing your child's HBP, treating it often resolves the HBP. When the cause of a child or teen's HBP isn't known, the first line of treatment is lifestyle changes (as it is for adults).

If lifestyle changes don't control blood pressure, children and teens also may need to take medicines. Most of the medicines listed above for adults have unique doses for children.