High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, affects millions of people every year—including young children and teenagers. Hypertension is also the most common type of cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of strokes and a major risk factor for heart attacks. In the US alone, approximately 75 million people have been diagnosed with high blood pressure.
What is it?
Simply put, blood pressure refers to the physical force/pressure placed on artery walls as blood is pumped throughout the body. Similar to that of an inflated tire, blood fills arteries to a specific capacity and if this threshold is exceeded damage to the arteries may occur.
How is it measured?
A blood pressure reading consists of two distinct numbers. The first and higher of the two being systolic pressure. Systolic pressure refers to the pressure in the arterial walls when the heart beats and fills them with blood. The second number in a blood pressure reading is the diastolic pressure. Diastolic pressure refers to the pressure within the arterial walls when the heart rests between beats. In general, an individual’s blood pressure will rise steadily as they age from about 90/60 at birth to 120/80 as a healthy adult. However, it's natural for blood pressure to rise and fall when engaging in vigorous activity.
What is considered high?
If your blood pressure readings are frequently 140/90 or higher then you’re considered to have high blood pressure. If your blood pressure remains at this level or continues to rise your physician will most likely put you on a blood pressure treatment. On the other hand, if your blood pressure readings are 200/120 or higher than you may need immediate medical care and you should consult with your primary care physician as soon as possible.
How do I know if I have high blood pressure?
Unfortunately, many people who suffer from high blood pressure don’t actually know they have the condition. Hypertension is commonly referred to as the "silent killer," because it rarely causes noticeable symptoms even in extreme cases. Your best option for keeping an eye on your blood pressure is to have your blood pressure checked regularly. You can have your blood pressure checked at a medical clinic, your neighborhood pharmacy or you can opt to purchase your own personal blood pressure monitor. Home blood pressure monitors come in a number of different sizes and include various features such as easy squeeze inflation bulbs, voice prompting and onboard memory. Digital blood pressure monitors are also fairly inexpensive and may end up saving your life. For more information relating to your specific situation or high blood pressure in general, please speak with your personal physician.
This information is not intended to supplement or replace advice from a medical professional, or to diagnose or treat any condition. If you experience high blood pressure, seek out the care of a medical professional immediately.
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