Doctor measuring blood pressure – studio shot on white background[/caption]High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a blood pressure reading that is consistently 140 over 90 or higher over the course of several weeks. Even if one of those numbers is higher than it should be for a few weeks (as opposed to both), you might have high blood pressure.
When your blood pressure is high, it puts a strain on your heart and blood vessels. Over time, this strain can increase your risk of heart attack or stroke. It may also cause heart and kidney disease. It’s even linked to some forms of dementia.
If you have high blood pressure, should you automatically be worried? When exactly should you start to worry? Read on for more information.
What is a healthy number?
The top number, or the “systolic” pressure, should be lower than 120. The bottom number, which is called the “diastolic” pressure, should be lower than 80. If both of your numbers are within these ranges, then you are considered to be in the normal range by the American Heart Association (AHA).
What is prehypertension?
When your upper number (systolic pressure) is between 120 and 139 mm Hg, or your lower number (diastolic pressure) is between 80 and 89, it means you have “prehypertension.” While not quite “high,” your numbers have moved out of the normal range. Elevated blood pressure is likely to turn into high blood pressure.
Stage 1 hypertension
Stage 1 hypertension is when your systolic pressure (the upper number) reaches between 140 and 159 mm Hg or when your diastolic pressure (lower number) is between 90 and 99 mm Hg. However, according to the AHA, if you only get one reading at this number, you may not “officially” have high blood pressure. You’re diagnosed with hypertension if your numbers stay this high over a period of time.
Stage 2 hypertension
If your reading has an upper number of 160 or more or a bottom number of 100 or more, you are at stage 2. At this point, you should make lifestyle changes such as eating better, losing weight, and exercising more. Your doctor may also recommend one or two medications to help keep your blood pressure under control. If you’ve reached stage 2, it’s time to take action to get your blood pressure under control.
A reading over 180/110 (or a reading in which either the upper or lower numbers are higher than this) indicates you have a very serious health problem. This is referred to as a “hypertensive crisis” by the AHA. In this range, you probably need emergency treatment.
It’s possible, however, that your reading was irregular and your numbers will return to normal. The doctor or nurse will probably take a second reading after a few minutes to double check.
Are your numbers a cause for concern?
If your blood pressure reading is in the “prehypertension” range, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have “high” blood pressure—but it’s not something you want to ignore, either. When your reading moves into stage 1 hypertension and remains there over a period of time, seek advice from your local urgent care center or clinic. In stage 2, you should make lifestyle changes and your doctor will likely recommend medication. A hypertensive crisis is an emergency and medical treatment is critical.
Here’s the best news: As long as you maintain a healthy diet, keep your weight down, and exercise regularly, your blood pressure will likely remain at a healthy level. In the event that your blood pressure numbers are out of the ordinary, following your doctor’s advice carefully should bring it back into equilibrium.