High Blood Pressure & What You Can Do

It’s normal for blood pressure to fluctuate throughout the day – but if it is consistently high for a long period of time, you may have high blood pressure. It’s important to consult with your doctor about high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, as it can increase your risk for heart attack, stroke, and other serious health problems. Your doctor can help determine the right course of treatment for your specific needs and help you better manage your blood pressure. 

The Basics
There are two important numbers used when measuring blood pressure: systolic and diastolic. The systolic number shows how hard the blood pushes when the heart is pumping, while the diastolic number shows how hard the blood pushes between heartbeats, when the heart is relaxed and filled with blood. Measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg), a systolic pressure of 120 and diastolic pressure of 80 is expressed as a blood pressure of 120/80, or “120 over 80”. 

Maintaining a healthy blood pressure is a goal everyone should strive to achieve. Discuss your optimal blood pressure with your primary care physician. Blood pressure goals are individualized based on many factors such as age and other health conditions. Normal Blood pressure varies person to person.

In most cases, the exact cause of high blood pressure is unknown. However, certain factors are known to raise blood pressure, including: 

  • High body weight
  • Low physical activity
  • High alcohol consumption
  • Family history of high blood pressure
  • High sodium intake
  • Insufficient potassium and calcium consumption
  • Age
  • Insulin resistance (a condition in which body cells do not fully respond to the action of insulin)

Without regular medical care, high blood pressure is likely to go unnoticed, since it doesn’t usually cause noticeable symptoms. However, extremely high blood pressure can cause severe headaches and vision problems. These symptoms can also be caused by dangerously high blood pressure, called hypertensive emergency. It may also be called a hypertensive crisis or malignant high blood pressure, and it is a serious medical emergency. Please call your doctor immediately if you believe you could have this condition.

It’s important to monitor and control high blood pressure throughout your life. If you have high blood pressure, your doctor can provide you with a specific goal for your blood pressure based on your health and age. There are also healthy changes you can implement into your lifestyle – but if that’s not enough, your doctor may prescribe medication. 

Exact treatment depends on how high your blood pressure is and whether you have other known health problems, such as diabetes. Your doctor may also check your risk for other problems, such as heart attack and stroke. You should work with your doctor to find the right treatment.

With these tips, regular medical care, and treatment under a doctor’s supervision, high blood pressure can be managed in your daily life.

For more information on blood pressure, please visit our Healthwise® Knowledgebase.