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Essential hypertension is also greatly influenced by diet and lifestyle. The link between salt and high blood pressure is especially compelling. People living on the northern islands of Japan eat more salt per capita than anyone else in the world and have the highest incidence of essential hypertension. By contrast, people who add no salt to their food show virtually no traces of essential hypertension.
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.
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.
Blood pressure monitors for use at home can be bought at drug stores, department stores, and other places. Again, these monitors may not always give you a correct reading. You should always compare your machine’s reading with a reading from your doctor’s machine to make sure they are the same. Remember that any measurement above normal should prompt a visit to the doctor, who can then talk with you about the best course of action.
Blood pressure control is a lifelong challenge. Hypertension can progress through the years, and treatments that worked earlier in life may need to be adjusted over time. Blood pressure control may involve gradually making lifestyle changes like diet, weight loss, exercise, and possibly taking medicine if necessary. In some situations, medications may be recommended immediately. As with many diseases, you and your doctor should work together to find the treatment plan that works for you.
A blood pressure reading measures both the systolic and diastolic forces, with the systolic pressure listed first. The numbers show your pressure in units of millimeters of mercury (mm Hg)—how high the pressure inside your arteries would be able to raise a column of mercury. For example, a reading of 120/80 mm Hg means a systolic pressure of 120 mm Hg and diastolic pressure of 80 mm Hg.
In fact, it seems that the presence of high blood cholesterol may actually predict a future presence of high blood pressure. That’s what researchers reported in a 2005 study in Hypertension. They analyzed data from 3,110 men who had not been diagnosed with hypertension or cardiovascular disease at the start, and followed them for about 14 years. Just over 1,000 of them developed hypertension by the end of the study.
For a normal reading, your blood pressure needs to show a top number (systolic pressure) that’s between 90 and less than 120 and a bottom number (diastolic pressure) that’s between 60 and less than 80. The American Heart Association (AHA) considers blood pressure to be within the normal range when both your systolic and diastolic numbers are in these ranges.
Lifelong control of hypertension will minimize the risk of developing heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, and a variety of other illnesses. Unlike other illnesses in which medications are taken for only a short period of time, high blood pressure medication is usually expected to be taken for the rest of the individual's life. It is uncommon, but not rare, that significant lifestyle changes can lower blood pressure readings to normal.
Hypertension: Another word for high blood pressure, hypertension is a common condition in which blood flows through your arteries too forcefully. Blood pressure is measured by two numbers. The top number is called the systolic blood pressure, and the bottom number is the diastolic blood pressure. Your blood pressure is high when it’s at or above 130/80. Normal blood pressure is 120/80 or lower.