High Blood Pressure


High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a very common, often misunderstood, disease. It is sometimes called “the silent killer” because it typically has no symptoms, but it can have deadly health consequences if not treated. There is no cure, but it is manageable with lifestyle changes and medication, if needed.

About 80 million U.S. adults have been diagnosed with high blood pressure. You don’t need to be “hyper” or “tense” to have high blood pressure – even calm, relaxed people can have high blood pressure.

What is blood pressure?

Every organ in your body needs oxygen to survive. Oxygen is carried through your body by blood. When your heart beats, it creates pressure that pushes blood through your network of arteries and veins. Blood pressure measures the force pushing outward on the walls of your arteries.

How is blood pressure measured?

Blood pressure is recorded as two numbers, one over the other. The top number (systolic) measures the pressure in your arteries each time your heart beats. The bottom number (diastolic) measures the pressure between heartbeats when your heart is at rest.

When is blood pressure considered too high?

Normal blood pressure is 120/80. High blood pressure is any reading above 140/90. Blood pressure higher than 180/110 requires immediate emergency care.

Which number is more important, top (systolic) or bottom (diastolic)?

Typically more attention is given to the top number (the systolic blood pressure) as a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease for people over 50 years old. In most people, systolic blood pressure rises steadily with age because of increasing stiffness of large arteries, long-term build-up of plaque, and increased incidence of cardiac and vascular disease.

What is pulmonary hypertension?

Your blood circulation system has two loops. One goes to the body. The other goes to your lungs. 

Pulmonary hypertension (or PHT) is high blood pressure that occurs in the arteries in your lungs. It is a different measurement altogether from systemic blood pressure. It reflects the pressure the heart must exert to pump blood from the heart through the arteries of the lungs.

How is high blood pressure treated?

There are eight main ways you can control your blood pressure.

  • Avoid tobacco; if you smoke, quit
  • Eat a healthier diet, which may include reducing salt
  • Enjoy regular physical activity
  • Limit alcohol
  • Manage stress
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Understand hot tub safety
  • Use medication as prescribed

Heart Services Are Nearby

If you have any symptoms of heart attack or stroke, call 911. Do not drive yourself to the hospital. EMTs can begin life-saving care immediately before you reach the hospital.

For more information, contact your primary care provider or Traverse Heart and Vascular at 800-637-4033.