High blood pressure also known as hypertension, is when your systolic blood pressure (BP) is 140 mm Hg or higher, or your diastolic blood pressure is 90 mm Hg or higher, or you take medicine to treat high blood pressure. 

For adults who are 18 or older, BP has been put into the following categories: 

• Normal: Systolic blood pressure below 120 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure below 80 mm Hg 

• Prehypertension is when your systolic blood pressure is between 120 and 139 mm Hg and your diastolic blood pressure is between 80 and 89 mm Hg. 

• Stage 1: Systolic 140-159 mm Hg and diastolic 90-99 mm Hg 

• Stage 2: 160 mm Hg or more on the systolic side and 100 mm Hg or more on the diastolic side. 

Hypertension can be either primary hypertension , which is caused by the environment or genes, or secondary hypertension, which has many causes, including kidney, blood vessel, and endocrine problems. 

Ninety to ninety-five percent of adults with hypertension have what’s called “primary” or “essential” hypertension, while only 2 to 10 percent have “secondary” hypertension. 

How Your Doctor Helps You Know if You Are Hypertensive 

To diagnose if you have hypertension, your doctor will do the following-

-Take your  BP reading accurately, 

-Carry out a thorough medical history and physical exam on you and 

-Get you run some routine lab tests. 

An electrocardiogram (ECG) with 12 leads may also be done on you.

These steps above help your doctor figure out if there’s  

• End-organ disease is present in your body already,

• What could be the cause of your high BP,

• Are there Cardiovascular risk factors in your case.

• Baseline values for figuring out how your treatment is going and effects on other parameters.

Other studies, like a Full Blood Count, chest x-ray, uric acid, and urine micro-albumin, can be done based on clinical findings or if you are suspected to have secondary hypertension and/or signs of target-organ disease.

blood pressure

Causes and risk factors of Hypertension

  • Age: The risk of hypertension goes up with age. Until age 64, men had higher blood pressure than women. After age 65, the number of women with high blood pressure went up.
  • Race. African-Americans are more likely than whites to get hypertension. Black people are more likely to have a stroke, a heart attack, or kidney failure.
  • Family gene: Hypertension can run in a family.
  • Obesity. When you gain weight, your tissues need more blood to get oxygen and food. Blood flow raises the pressure on the arterial walls.
  • Inactivity. Heart rates are higher in people who don’t do much. With a faster heart rate, the heart beats harder and puts more pressure on the arteries. Being inactive raises the risk of being overweight.
  • Smoking Tobacco compounds briefly raise BP and damage the walls of the arteries. This makes the arteries narrower and raises the risk of heart disease. Heart disease is more likely to happen if you are around people who smoke.
  • Taking Too much Salt (sodium). BP goes up when sodium causes fluid to stay in the body.
  • Potassium deficiency. Potassium balances cell sodium. Potassium balance is important for heart health. If you don’t get enough potassium or lose too much due to dehydration or other health problems, sodium can build up in your blood.
  • Over drinking. If you drink a lot, it can hurt your heart. BP may go up if women have more than one drink a day and men have more than two. Don’t drink too much. Men can have two drinks a day and women can have one. One drink is equal to 12 ounces of beer.
  • Stress. Stress temporarily makes blood pressure go up. BP can go up because of things like overeating, smoking, and drinking.
  • Long-term illnesses: BP can go up when you have a kidney disease, have diabetes, or have sleep apnea.
  • Adrenal tumors: can also lead to elevated BP and subsequent hypertension.
  • Thyroid disease: Conditions affecting the thyroid gland can lead to hypertension
  • Some problems with blood vessels that are present at birth (congenital).
  • Some medications, like birth control pills, cold remedies, decongestants, over-the-counter pain relievers, and some prescription drugs. Illegal drugs, like cocaine and amphetamines. 
  • Hypertension can also be caused by being pregnant.

Children can have hypertension, but adults are more likely to have it. Hypertension in kids can be caused by problems with the kidneys or the heart. A growing number of young people have high BP because they eat unhealthy foods and don’t exercise enough.

Dangers of Having High Blood Pressure:

Hypertension hurts the walls of the arteries and the organs. High blood pressure that is not under control does a lot of damage to the body.

Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to:

  • Heart attack/stroke: Atherosclerosis can be caused by high blood pressure, which can lead to a heart attack, a stroke, or other problems.
  • Aneurysm: Hypertension can make blood vessels weaker and bigger, which can lead to an aneurysm. Aneurysms that burst can kill you.
  • Heart Failure: When the pressure in the arteries goes up, the heart has to pump harder to keep up. This makes the walls of the pumping chamber thicker (left ventricular hypertrophy). If the muscle is swollen, it might not be able to pump enough blood, which could lead to heart failure.
  • Kidneys Problems:kidney disease is more likely to happen to people who have hypertension.
  • Blindness: High blood pressure can cause bleeding in the eye, blurred vision, or even loss of sight.
  • Metabolic syndrome: This syndrome is marked by a big waistline, high triglycerides, low High Density Lipoprotiens (the “good” cholesterol), high blood pressure, and high insulin levels. Diabetes, heart disease, and stroke can all be caused by these conditions.
  • Problems with memory or understanding: High blood pressure that isn’t under control can make it hard to think, remember, and learn. High blood pressure makes it hard to remember things and think clearly.
  • Dementia Blood flow to the brain can be slowed by narrow or clogged arteries, which can lead to dementia (vascular dementia). Having a stroke can cause vascular dementia.

When To See Your Doctor for More:

During a typical visit to the doctor, blood pressure is likely to be checked.

At age 18, you should start getting your blood pressure checked. Check your blood pressure 3 – 6 months a year if you are 40 or older, or if you are between 18 and 39 and have a high risk of hypertension.

If you check the blood pressure in both arms, you might find a difference. The size of the arm cuff is important.

If you have high blood pressure or other risk factors for heart disease, your doctor may tell you to get checked more often. During annual checkups, the blood pressure of children who are at least 3 years old is measured.

If you don’t go to the doctor very often, you might be able to get your blood pressure checked for free at a pharmacy or other places in your area.
Blood pressure equipment from a pharmacy can be helpful, but it can only so much depending on the size of the cuff and how well it is used. 

Consult your doctor about blood pressure values measured at some other places.