Many people who have high blood pressure (hypertension) experience few, if any, symptoms, even in extreme cases. Sometimes, when blood pressure becomes dangerously high, they might report a headache or nosebleed, but typically hypertension is a silent killer with very few even suspecting they have the condition.
High blood pressure that persists for an extended time without detection poses a serious risk to multiple body organs. Your heart, kidneys, blood vessels, and other areas might suffer damage.
Sadly, many people do not find out that they have hypertension until they experience coronary heart disease, kidney failure, or a stroke.
4. Diagnosing High Blood Pressure
The only real way to know if you have high blood pressure is to get it diagnosed at your physician’s office by undergoing a pain-free test.
To prepare for your high blood pressure test:
- Do not drink coffee or any other caffeine at least 30 minutes before you undergo the hypertension test.
- Always go to the bathroom prior to testing.
- Sit quietly for five minutes before you take the test.
Your physician or nurse will use a stethoscope and blood pressure cuff to accurately measure your blood pressure. You will be told to sit down and relax.
The blood pressure cuff is wrapped loosely around your arm. The inflatable cuff then starts to inflate and tighten as it measures your blood pressure using a blood pressure monitoring gauge. Sit quietly during the test and hold your arm still to get an accurate reading.
Please be aware that your blood pressure does vary throughout the day, so most physicians will require that you come in for at least three blood pressure checks to truly determine if you have elevated or high blood pressure. In some cases, your physician might also measure your blood pressure in both arms to make sure it does not change.
A blood pressure gauge measures two numbers and renders the results in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). The first number shows the pressure within the body’s arteries that occurs every time your heart beats and is referred to as the systolic pressure.
The second number the blood pressure gauge measures is known as the diastolic pressure and measures the pressure within the arteries between heartbeats, when your heart relaxes and starts to fill with blood.
3. Understanding Blood Pressure Measurements
If you are wondering what is normal and what is not, keep reading to learn more about blood pressure measurements.
- Normal Blood Pressure: If you have normal blood pressure, then the blood pressure gauge will say 120/80 mmHg or slightly below. Anything above that reading might mean you have hypertension.
- Elevated Blood Pressure: If your numbers read from 120 to 129 mmHg systolic and less than 80 mmHg diastolic, you have elevated blood pressure. If you have elevated blood pressure, then you do face an increased risk of later developing high blood pressure, so it is imperative that you take steps to control the condition. Follow a healthy diet plan and regular exercise for control.
- Hypertension Stage 1: If your blood pressure holds at 130 to 129 mmHg systolic and 80 to 89 mmHg diastolic, then you have what is referred to as stage 1 hypertension. You will need to modify your lifestyle to control your blood pressure and reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
- Hypertension Stage 2: If your blood pressure is over 140/90 or higher, then you will need medication to reduce the blood pressure and must undergo lifestyle changes to better control the condition.
- Hypertensive Crisis: When your blood pressure reaches 180/120 mmHg, then you are in a great deal of danger. You could start to feel chest pain, back pain, shortness of breath, changes in vision, numbness, weakness, and difficulty speaking. In some cases, you will have organ failure. It is imperative that you seek immediate medical help to control the dangerously high blood pressure.
2. Additional Tests to Diagnose High Blood Pressure
If your physician suspects you suffer from high blood pressure, then you will need to undergo additional tests to rule out potential heart disease.
Tests include the following:
- Blood tests
- Cholesterol test
- Urine test
- Electrocardiogram (ECG)
1. Keeping Track of Your Blood Pressure
Even after your physician puts you on blood pressure medication to control your hypertension, you will still need to monitor things. Luckily, you can take your blood pressure at home using an automated blood pressure monitor that is affordable and widely available from most health supply stores.
Regularly checking your blood pressure will help to ensure that the treatment is working, and your blood pressure is not continuing to rise and worsen.
The American Heart Association (AHA) suggests that you use an automatic upper arm monitor that has a cuff style for easy at-home use.
- Before taking your blood pressure, do not drink any caffeinated beverages.
- Avoid smoking.
- Abstain from exercising at least 30 minutes before taking your blood pressure.
- Sit in an upright position with your feet flat on the floor.
- Avoid crossing your legs when you take your blood pressure to get the most accurate measurement.
Ideally, you should always take your blood pressure at the same time every day and then record the results to share with your physician later.
Avoid placing the blood pressure monitor’s cuff over your clothing. Instead, measure your pressure by placing the cuff directly on the skin of your arm for the most accurate reading.Related: Lower Your Blood Pressure with These 19 Healthy Foods