One reason to visit your doctor regularly is to have your blood pressure checked. Routine checks of your blood pressure will help pick up an early rise in blood pressure, even though you might feel fine. If there's an indication that your blood pressure is high at two or more checkups, the doctor may ask you to check your blood pressure at home at different times of the day. If the pressure stays high, even when you are relaxed, the doctor may suggest exercise, changes in your diet, and, most likely, medications.
Exercise stress test: More commonly used for patients with borderline hypertension. This usually involves pedaling a stationary bicycle or walking on a treadmill. The stress test assesses how the body's cardiovascular system responds to increased physical activity. If the patient has hypertension this data is important to know before the exercise test starts. The test monitors the electrical activity of the heart, as well as the patient's blood pressure during exercise. An exercise stress test sometimes reveals problems that are not apparent when the body is resting. Imaging scans of the heart's blood supply might be done at the same time.
A later study, published in the Journal of Hypertension, found similar results. Researchers analyzed data from 4,680 participants aged 40 to 59 years from 17 different areas in Japan, China, the United Kingdom, and the United States. They looked at blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and diet over the previous 24 hours. The results showed that cholesterol was directly related to blood pressure for all participants.
Not everyone is sensitive to sodium, meaning that not all individuals who eat a high sodium diet will develop high blood pressure as a result. Rather than acting as your own test subject to see if you are salt-sensitive or not, it is advisable to try to follow the American Heart Association's recommendation of less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium (less than 1 teaspoon of table salt) per day. Remember that this is a goal amount for the average of what you eat. If you overindulge in salty foods on day, balance your intake with very low sodium foods the next.
Blood pressure isn’t just a number. Chronically elevated blood pressure (hypertension) significantly increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure, erectile dysfunction, eye disease (retinopathy), and kidney disease. Heart disease and stroke are two of the top five causes of death in the US (heart disease is #1), and hypertension is such a big contributor to both that the CDC claims hypertension was at least partially responsible for 410,000 deaths in the US in 2014.

Sodium: An essential nutrient found in many foods and table salt. Sodium helps your muscles and nerve cells work and controls your blood pressure. Only a little is needed. Too much sodium in your body can cause high blood pressure and bloating. The daily recommended limit for sodium is 2,300 milligrams (equal to one teaspoon of table salt). If you have high blood pressure or other health problems, your doctor will likely recommend even less.

Low- and no-fat dairy foods are good sources of calcium and protein, which can help maintain a healthy blood pressure. Try to get three servings of dairy every day. Choose skim or 1% milk and low- or no-fat cheeses and yogurt. Frozen low-fat yogurt is OK, too. One serving equals 1 cup of yogurt or milk, or 1 1/2 ounces of cheese -- about the size of three dice.
Diabetes can upset the balance between HDL and LDL cholesterol levels. People with diabetes tend to have LDL particles that stick to arteries and damage blood vessel walls more easily. Glucose (a type of sugar) attaches to lipoproteins (a cholesterol-protein package that enables cholesterol to travel through blood). Sugarcoated LDL remains in the bloodstream longer and may lead to the formation of plaque. People with diabetes tend to have low HDL and high triglyceride (another kind of blood fat) levels. Both of these boost the risk of heart and artery disease.
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.
Not only the degree of obesity is important, but also the manner in which the body accumulates extra fat. Some people gain weight around their belly (central obesity or "apple-shaped" people), while others store fat around their hips and thighs ("pear-shaped" people). "Apple-shaped" people tend to have greater health risks for high blood pressure than "pear-shaped" people.

For older people, often the first number (systolic) is 130 or higher, but the second number (diastolic) is less than 80. This problem is called isolated systolic hypertension, which is due to age-related stiffening of the major arteries. It is the most common form of high blood pressure in older people and can lead to serious health problems (stroke, heart disease, eye problems, and kidney failure) in addition to shortness of breath during light physical activity, lightheadedness upon standing too fast, and falls. Isolated systolic hypertension is treated in the same way as regular high blood pressure (130 or higher for the first number, or 80 or higher for the second number) but may require more than one type of blood pressure medication. If your doctor determines that your systolic pressure is above a normal level for your age, ask how you can lower it.
She'll inflate the cuff to a pressure higher than your systolic blood pressure, and it will tighten around your arm. Then she'll release it. As the cuff deflates, the first sound she hears through the stethoscope is the systolic blood pressure. It sounds like a whooshing noise. The point where this noise goes away marks the diastolic blood pressure.

It can be difficult to make many diet changes at once, especially if you have been diagnosed with two medical conditions. Try making one healthy change a week for four weeks. Once you have mastered these improvements, reward yourself with something you enjoy, like a trip to the spa or to the movies. The second month, focus on maintaining these healthy habits and adding healthy variety to your meals. When you feel ready, try a fifth and sixth healthy change, and don't forget to reward yourself for the positive changes that you have made.
Sodium (salt) sensitivity: Some people have high sensitivity to sodium (salt), and their blood pressure increases if they use salt. Reducing sodium intake tends to lower their blood pressure. Americans consume 10-15 times more sodium than they need. Fast foods and processed foods contain particularly high amounts of sodium. Many over-the-counter medicines also contain large amounts of sodium. Read food labels and learn about salt content in foods and other products as a healthy first step to reducing salt intake. Fast food restaurants also make the salt and calorie content of their food available to consumers at their restaurants,

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.
Cut down on salt. As you get older, the body and blood pressure become more sensitive to salt (sodium), so you may need to watch how much salt is in your diet. Most of the salt comes from processed foods (for example, soup and baked goods). A low-salt diet, such as the DASH diet, might help lower your blood pressure. Talk with your doctor about eating less salt.
High blood pressure (hypertension) is very common and the share of both men and women with high blood pressure increases steadily with age.High blood pressure sneaks up on you. Except at extreme levels, high blood pressure is usually a silent condition causing no symptoms, so it is important to have regular blood pressure checks.Many things are thought to help bring about high blood pressure, including several changes in the heart and blood vessels.Why is high blood pressure important?Having high blood pressure increases your risk of a variety of health problems. Some of the complications of having high blood pressure include:an increased risk of heart and blood vessel disease – the higher the blood pressure, the higher the risk of angina, heart attack and stroke;heart failure; andkidney damage.How is blood pressure measured?When the heart pumps, it produces pressure inside the arteries and moves the blood forward. This is called systolic pressure. Then the heart relaxes as it fills again and the pressure in your arteries falls. This is called diastolic pressure.Blood pressure readings are given as 2 numbers – systolic pressure over diastolic pressure. The pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg).As a general guide,optimal blood pressure is considered to be less than 120 mmHg (systolic pressure) over 80 mmHg (diastolic pressure) — written as 120/80;normal blood pressure is between 120/80 and 129/84; andhigh-normal blood pressure is between 130/85 and 139/89.What is high blood pressure?High blood pressure, or hypertension, means that the systolic or diastolic pressure or both are above the normal range. A reading above 140/90 mmHg is usually considered to be ‘hypertension’, although hypertension is further divided up by doctors into mild, moderate or severe depending on the blood pressure reading.The grades of hypertension are as follows.Mild (grade 1) hypertension: from 140/90 mmHg up to 159/99 mmHg.Moderate (grade 2) hypertension: from 160/100 mmHg up to 179/109 mmHg.Severe (grade 3) hypertension: 180/110 mmHg or more.When deciding whether your blood pressure reading is of concern or not, your doctor will take various factors into account, including your age, cholesterol level, smoking status and presence of other conditions such as diabetes, previous stroke, heart problems or kidney disease.Your doctor will also want to check your blood pressure on more than one occasion before deciding whether you have high blood pressure or not. They may ask you to check your blood pressure at home or wear a 24-hour blood pressure monitoring device. Home blood pressure machines can be purchased or hired from some pharmacies.It is important to remember that our blood pressure rises at certain times, and that is not necessarily a bad thing. During exercise, for example, the pulse rate and blood pressure increase in order to carry extra blood and oxygen to the muscles. When you finish exercising, the blood pressure returns to normal.Blood pressure also rises with excitement, anger or fear but this usually does not last long.How do I know if I have high blood pressure?Unless it is very high, high blood pressure usually has no symptoms. The only way to know if your blood pressure is raised is to get it measured.Every adult should have their blood pressure checked regularly. Your doctor will advise you how often. This depends on your age, your general health and whether you are taking any herbal products, supplements or medicines, including the contraceptive pill.Some people may experience symptoms related to conditions causing or caused by high blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, your doctor will check for these symptoms.Your doctor will also ask about the health of your family members and whether any member in your family has been diagnosed with high blood pressure. They will perform a physical examination looking for any problems related to high blood pressure.What causes high blood pressure?In most people, high blood pressure results from the interaction of numerous genetic (inherited) and lifestyle factors. This is sometimes called primary or essential hypertension.A small proportion of people have secondary high blood pressure, which is high blood pressure that is caused by a specific underlying condition, such as kidney disease or hormonal problems.Other risk factors include:being overweight;smoking;not getting enough physical activity;having a high alcohol intake; andeating a diet high in salt (sodium chloride).High blood pressure treatmentsHigh blood pressure can be treated with lifestyle measures and medicines. Your doctor will recommend treatment for you based on:your blood pressure readings;whether you have other conditions related to high blood pressure; andyour overall risk of cardiovascular disease.Lifestyle measuresMaking some adjustments to your lifestyle can help lower blood pressure and improve your overall health. Lifestyle measures are the only treatment needed to control blood pressure in some people.Achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight often means a higher blood pressure.Eat a wide variety of nutritious foods, with lots of vegetables, fruit and grains. Eat moderate amounts of fish, skinless chicken, lean meat cuts, eggs, nuts, legumes and reduced fat dairy foods. Avoid foods high in saturated fat (e.g. fried foods, biscuits, chips) and replace with foods containing mainly polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (e.g. oils, spreads, avocado, nuts and seeds).Eat less salt: use herbs, spices, fruit and vinegar for flavouring and dressings; choose low salt pre-prepared foods; avoid pickled and takeaway foods which have a high salt content.Get regular physical activity. Strive to put a little bit more activity in your day at every opportunity. Aim to accumulate at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week. Walking, cycling and swimming are ideal. Find activities you enjoy so you can keep them up.Cut down on alcohol. Healthy men and women should have no more than 2 standard alcoholic drinks a day. Also, aim for at least 2 alcohol-free days per week.Stop smoking: quitting reduces blood pressure as well as your risk of heart attack and stroke.Medicines for high blood pressureMedicines can help control high blood pressure but do not cure it. Usually blood pressure medicines need to be taken long-term.The main types of medicines that are used to treat uncomplicated high blood pressure include:angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (ACE inhibitors);angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs);calcium channel blockers; andthiazide diuretics.The type of medicine that your doctor prescribes will depend on:your age;whether you have conditions associated with high blood pressure;whether you have other health problems or take other medicines;the side effects of different medicines; andthe cost of different medicines.To control blood pressure successfully, you may need 2 or more medicines, each working in a different way. We all react differently to medicines, so it may take some time to find the combinations and doses that suit you best.It is important to tell your doctor about any other health products you are taking — this includes eyedrops, ointments, over-the-counter preparations, herbs and supplements.It is also important to follow your doctor’s instructions about taking blood pressure medicines.You cannot tell how your blood pressure is doing by the way you feel. Regular check-ups are essential and it is unwise to change your own dose of tablets.If your blood pressure is not responding well to treatments, your doctor may refer you to a cardiologist (specialist in heart conditions and high blood pressure).Side effectsLike all medicines, those for high blood pressure may occasionally cause side effects. These vary among medicines and from person to person, and often decrease with time or by your doctor adjusting your dosage.If your blood pressure gets too low on the medicine, you may feel faint or dizzy, particularly when you stand up. Try standing up slowly to reduce this, and stay close to the bed or chair for a moment in case you need to sit or lie down again. If this side effect continues, see your doctor for review.You should let your doctor know about any reactions you have to the medicines. With the range of blood pressure medicines now available, it is nearly always possible to find one that will give you minimal or no side effects.Check-upsIf you have had high blood pressure, you need to have regular checks throughout your life. This is true even if you are not currently receiving any treatment, or if you are being treated by diet and lifestyle changes or with medicines.Your doctor will advise you about how frequently you should have your blood pressure checked, but generally speaking it will be at least every 6 months.In the early stages of treatment, you may need to be seen weekly or fortnightly, but once your blood pressure is controlled, checks may be spaced out to once every 3 or 6 months.If you have high blood pressure, it’s also worth being checked for other conditions that may further increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, such as diabetes and high cholesterol.High blood pressure often runs in families. Suggest to others in your family that they also have their blood pressure measured. Last Reviewed: 8 February 2017
Physical examination may include listening to the heart and lungs, feeling for pulse in the wrist and ankles, and feeling and listening to the abdomen looking for signs of an enlarged aorta. The examiner may also listen in the neck for carotid bruits (sounds made by a narrowed artery in the neck) and in the abdomen for bruits made by an abdominal aortic aneurysm.

For many people, high or low blood pressure is manageable. For high blood pressure, your outlook is best if you take lifestyle steps that support overall heart health and follow your doctor’s recommendations about medications to manage your blood pressure. For low blood pressure, it’s important to identify the cause and follow through with any recommended treatment plans.
How do you check your own blood pressure? It is common to have your blood pressure checked at the doctor's office, but there are many cases where it is important to monitor it at home. It is easy to check blood pressure with an automated machine, but it can also be done manually at home. Learn how to check your own blood pressure and what the results mean. Read now
×