Hypertension is another term used to describe high blood pressure. High blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart attack, heart failure, kidney disease, and early death.
You are more likely to have high blood pressure as you get older. This is because your blood vessels become stiffer as you age. When that happens, your blood pressure goes up.
If your blood pressure is high, you need to lower it and keep it under control. Your blood pressure reading has 2 numbers. One or both of these numbers can be too high.
If you've had a stroke or you have heart or kidney problems, your doctor may want your blood pressure to be round 130 to 140/80 mm Hg.
The blood pressure numbers listed above are goals agreed upon by most experts for most people. Yet your doctor will always consider how these goals apply to you specifically.
Many medicines can help you control your blood pressure. Your doctor will prescribe the best medicine for you, monitor your medicines, and make changes if needed.
Older adults tend to take more medicines overall. This puts them at greater risk for side effects, which can be harmful. One side effect of blood pressure medicine is an increased risk for falls. When treating older adults, blood pressure targets need to be balanced against drug side effects.
In addition to taking medicine, you can do many things to help control your blood pressure.
Your doctor can help you find programs for losing weight, stopping smoking, and exercising. You can also get a referral from your doctor to a dietitian. The dietitian can help you plan a diet that is healthy for you.
Your blood pressure can be measured many places, including:
Your doctor may ask you to keep track of your blood pressure at home. Make sure you get a good quality, well-fitting home device. It is best to have one with a cuff for your arm and a digital readout. Practice with your doctor to make sure you are taking your blood pressure correctly.
It is normal for your blood pressure to be different at different times of the day.
It is usually higher when you are at work. It drops slightly when you are at home. It is usually lowest when you are sleeping.
It is normal for your blood pressure to increase suddenly when you wake up. For people with very high blood pressure, this is when they are most at risk for heart attack and stroke.
Your doctor will give you a physical exam and check your blood pressure often. With your doctor, establish a goal for your blood pressure.
If you monitor your blood pressure at home, keep a written record. Bring the results to your clinic visit.
Call your doctor if your blood pressure goes well above your normal range.
Also call your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:
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Updated by: David C. Dugdale, III, MD, Professor of Medicine, Division of General Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team. Editorial update: 05/14/14
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