Because high blood pressure doesn’t cause symptoms, once you’ve been diagnosed with it, it’s critical to measure your blood pressure regularly. This is true even if you’re taking blood pressure medication. And whether you’ve got high or low blood pressure, tracking your systolic and diastolic numbers is a great way to gauge how well lifestyle changes or medications are working.
When a direct cause for high blood pressure can be identified, the condition is described as secondary hypertension. Among the known causes of secondary hypertension, kidney disease ranks highest. Hypertension can also be triggered by tumors or other abnormalities that cause the adrenal glands (small glands that sit atop the kidneys) to secrete excess amounts of the hormones that elevate blood pressure. Birth control pills -- specifically those containing estrogen -- and pregnancy can boost blood pressure, as can medications that constrict blood vessels.
LDL cholesterol: This is the “bad” type of cholesterol. Although your body needs a little bit of it to build cells, too much LDL can build up on the walls of your blood vessels over time, eventually blocking blood flow, which can lead to heart disease. When a doctor tests your blood for cholesterol levels, the more LDL there is, the higher your risk for heart disease.
Regular visits with your doctor are also key to controlling your blood pressure. If your blood pressure is well-controlled, check with your doctor about how often you need to check it. Your doctor may suggest checking it daily or less often. If you're making any changes in your medications or other treatments, your doctor may recommend you check your blood pressure starting two weeks after treatment changes and a week before your next appointment.
The goal of treating systolic hypertension is to delay and reduce the extent of damage to the heart, the cerebrovascular system, and the kidneys. Lifestyle interventions are a crucial element of successful treatment, including a diet low in sodium (salt) and rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Clinical trials have also documented the beneficial effects of weight loss, increased physical activity, and limiting alcohol consumption.
Studies even show that blood pressure measurements outside a doctor’s office are at least as accurate as those in the office (provided the equipment works well). If your results are high, take another reading. Try, try again. If they’re still high, see your healthcare provider and get checked out. Your doctor may order blood and urine tests or an EKG to diagnose other causes for your hypertension.
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
In isolated systolic high blood pressure (isolated systolic hypertension, or ISH), systolic blood pressure is elevated (140 mm Hg or higher), but diastolic blood pressure stays below 90 mm Hg. This type of high blood pressure is more common in older adults, especially older women. In fact, the majority of people older than 60 who have hypertension have isolated systolic hypertension.
Your heart is a muscle about the size of your fist. It’s made up of four chambers and contains four valves. The valves open and close to let blood move through the chambers and into and out of your heart. According to the American Heart Association, your heart beats 60 to 100 times per minute, or about 100,000 times per day. As it beats, blood is forced against your artery walls.
Blood pressure is measured with a blood pressure cuff (sphygmomanometer). This may be done using a stethoscope and a cuff and gauge or by an automatic machine. It is a routine part of the physical examination and one of the vital signs often recorded for a patient visit. Other vital signs include pulse rate, respiratory rate (breathing rate), temperature, and weight.
Healthcare professionals use a stethoscope and a manual sphygmomanometer to measure your blood pressure. Typically they take the reading above your elbow. The sphygmomanometer has a bladder, cuff, bulb, and a gauge. When the bulb is pumped it inflates the bladder inside the cuff, which is wrapped around your arm. This inflation will stop the blood flow in your arteries. The stethoscope is used to listen for sound of the heartbeat, and no sound indicates that there is no flow. As the pressure is released from the bladder, you will hear the sound of the blood flowing again. That point becomes systolic reading. The diastolic reading is when you hear no sound again, which means that the blood flow is back to normal.
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