The official term for high blood pressure is “hypertension.” Hypertension is a medical condition in which the force that a person’s blood exerts on the walls of his or her arteries can cause damage to the arteries leading to problems with circulation. Since arteries supply blood to every organ and tissue in the body, hypertension puts the entire body at risk for serious health complications.
Doctors diagnose hypertension by taking readings of a person’s blood pressure. Taking readings is easy and can be done in under a minute. Doctors and pharmacies usually have the equipment needed to take a reading, and patients can purchase take-home units to monitor their blood pressure at home. Because a person’s blood pressure can spike in certain settings, such as stressful situations, doctors usually like to collect several readings in varied settings before they make an official diagnosis.
Each blood pressure reading includes two numbers: a systolic number and a diastolic number. An example of a normal blood pressure is a systolic reading of 115 millimeters of mercury and a diastolic reading of 70 millimeters of mercury, expressed as “115 over 70” and written as 115/70.
Hypertension is diagnosed on a scale. A blood pressure:
High blood pressure often goes unnoticed in its early stages, which is why everyone should have his or her blood pressure checked regularly. When untreated, the condition can lead to major cardiovascular problems, including strokes, heart attacks, heart failure, kidney failure and aneurysms.
High blood pressure may be treated by making lifestyle changes and with medication. Depending on a patient’s stage and habits, a doctor might recommend quitting smoking, exercising more, drinking less alcohol, consuming less sodium, and losing weight. Doctors may also prescribe beta blockers, thiazide diuretics, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, calcium channel blockers, or angiotensin II receptor blockers.
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