Your doctor may also use a device called an ophthalmoscope to look at the blood vessels in your eyes. Doctors can see if these vessels have thickened, narrowed, or burst, which may be a sign of high blood pressure. Your doctor will also use a stethoscope to listen to your heart and the sound of blood flowing through your arteries. In some cases, a chest x-ray and electrocardiogram may be needed.
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.
High blood pressure (hypertension) can quietly damage your body for years before symptoms develop. Left uncontrolled, you may wind up with a disability, a poor quality of life or even a fatal heart attack. Roughly half the people with untreated hypertension die of heart disease related to poor blood flow (ischemic heart disease) and another third die of stroke.
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.
Recent research shows that lowering your blood pressure below these levels decreases your risk of heart attacks and all-cause mortality. That’s right—lowering your blood pressure has a direct impact on your life expectancy. In fact, a person with a systolic pressure of 135 has double the risk of heart disease as someone with a systolic pressure of 115. Same goes for a diastolic pressure of 85 instead of 75. 10 points might not seem like much, but every blood pressure increase has a big impact on your health.
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.
The main risk from high cholesterol is coronary heart disease. If the cholesterol level is too high, cholesterol can build up in the walls of your arteries. Over time, this build-up -- called plaque -- causes hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis. This causes arteries to become narrowed, which slows the blood flow to the heart muscle. Reduced blood flow can result in angina (chest pain) or in a heart attack if a blood vessel gets blocked completely.
Nuts, legumes, and seeds are rich in magnesium, protein, and fiber. Walnuts are full of omega-3 fatty acids, which may help lower your risk of heart disease. Enjoy as many as five servings of these foods each week. That’s 1/3 cup of nuts, 2 tablespoons of seeds, or a 1/2 cup of cooked dried beans or peas in each serving. Grab a handful of seeds or nuts as a snack. Or add beans to your salads or soups.
Kidney artery aneurysm. An aneurysm is a bulge in the wall of a blood vessel. When it occurs in an artery leading to the kidney, it's known as a kidney (renal) artery aneurysm. One potential cause is atherosclerosis, which weakens and damages the artery wall. Over time, high blood pressure in a weakened artery can cause a section to enlarge and form a bulge — the aneurysm. Aneurysms can rupture and cause life-threatening internal bleeding.
Dementia. Dementia is a brain disease resulting in problems with thinking, speaking, reasoning, memory, vision and movement. There are a number of causes of dementia. One cause, vascular dementia, can result from narrowing and blockage of the arteries that supply blood to the brain. It can also result from strokes caused by an interruption of blood flow to the brain. In either case, high blood pressure may be the culprit.
In order to survive and function properly, your tissues and organs need the oxygenated blood that your circulatory system carries throughout the body. When the heart beats, it creates pressure that pushes blood through a network of tube-shaped blood vessels, which include arteries, veins and capillaries. This pressure — blood pressure — is the result of two forces: The first force (systolic pressure) occurs as blood pumps out of the heart and into the arteries that are part of the circulatory system. The second force (diastolic pressure) is created as the heart rests between heart beats. (These two forces are each represented by numbers in a blood pressure reading.)
Whelton PK, et al. (2017). Guideline for the prevention, detection, evaluation, and management of high blood pressure in adults: A report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, published online November 13, 2017. DOI: 10.1016/j.jacc.2017.11.006. Accessed November 20, 2017.
National data shows that isolated systolic hypertension is becoming increasingly common among young adults, and study findings raise concern about its effect on heart health. Isolated systolic hypertension is often overlooked in young and middle-aged adults, as most studies on the issue involve older adults, among whom the condition is most common. But current findings suggest that isolated systolic hypertension does, in fact, have a serious impact on the cardiovascular health of young adults. As such, researchers encourage future research to better identify and treat young adults with isolated systolic hypertension who are at greatest risk for heart events.
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.