High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a common condition among millions of Americans that, if left untreated, increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and other serious health problems. High blood pressure affects the body’s arteries by making the heart work harder to pump blood, which exerts too much force against the artery walls.
Unfortunately, the symptoms of hypertension tend to be subtle, which is why it is often referred to as the “silent killer.” However, the more you know about hypertension and its indicators, the better you can manage your blood pressure to ensure good health.
Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and is classified into four general categories. These are:
- Normal blood pressure–Blood pressure that measures 120/80 mm Hg or lower.
- Elevated blood pressure –In which the top number ranges from 120 to 129 mm Hg and the bottom number is below, not above, 80 mm Hg.
- Stage 1 hypertension – In which the top number ranges from 130 to 139 mm Hg or the bottom number is between 80 and 89 mm Hg.
- Stage 2 hypertension – In which the top number is 140 mm Hg or higher or the bottom number is 90 mm Hg or higher.
On this scale, blood pressure that is higher than 180/120 mm Hg is considered a hypertensive emergency or crisis requiring immediate medical attention.
Hypertension is caused either by too much cholesterol in your veins and arteries or by another medical condition. What is insidious about hypertension is that most people with high blood pressure exhibit no symptoms, even when their blood pressure readings reach dangerously high levels. In fact, you can have high blood pressure for years without any symptoms. That is why it is important that you have your blood pressure checked at least every two years starting at the age of 18. Those with underlying medical conditions need more frequent checks.
The Telltale Signs of Hypertension
Some signs and symptoms that may point to high blood pressure include headaches, nosebleeds, and shortness of breath. You may also experience chest pain, an irregular heartbeat, confusion, vision problems, and a pounding sensation in the chest, ears, or neck. Of course, these symptoms aren’t always present and usually don’t occur until hypertension has reached a severe or potentially life-threatening stage.
When To See A Doctor to Screen for Hypertension
How often you should see your primary care physician to have your blood pressure checked depends on your age and overall health. As previously mentioned, you should have a blood pressure reading every two years beginning at age 18. If you are age 40 or older, or are age 18 to 39 with a high risk of hypertension, have your blood pressure checked every year. Your healthcare provider will recommend more frequent readings if you have chronic high blood pressure or other risk factors for heart disease.
When diagnosed, high blood pressure is often treated with medication and preventive measures, such as adopting a healthier lifestyle that includes eating well, exercising, and refraining from the use of tobacco products.
Primary Care in Florida
Managing hypertension or other cardiovascular conditions while maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle can require medical guidance. Dr. Chuck Dugan at Dugan Family Healthcare is more than happy to provide this service to patients in need.
Board-certified, Dr. Dugan provides comprehensive and individualized care with telehealth services and home visits. You can receive consultations, assessments, and treatment plans – all from the convenience of your home, office, car, or wherever you have cellular service.