Diagnosing high blood pressure
Diagnosing hypertension is as simple as taking a blood pressure reading. Most physicians’ offices check blood pressure as part of a routine visit.
If you don’t receive a blood pressure reading at your next appointment, request one. If your blood pressure is elevated, your physician may ask you have more readings over a few days or weeks.
A hypertension diagnosis is not given after just one reading. Your doctor needs to see evidence of a sustained problem. That’s because your environment can contribute to increased blood pressure, such as the stress you may feel by being at the physician’s office.
Also, blood pressure levels change throughout the day. If your blood pressure remains high, your physician will likely conduct more tests to rule out underlying conditions.
These tests can include urine tests, cholesterol screening, and other blood tests of your heart’s electrical activity with an electrocardiogram (EKG, sometimes referred to as an ECG)ultrasound of your heart or kidneys.
These tests can help your physician identify any secondary issues causing your elevated blood pressure. They can also look at the effects high blood pressure may have had on your organs.
During this time, your physician may begin treating your hypertension. Early treatment may reduce your risk of lasting damage.
How to understand high blood pressure readings
Two numbers create a blood pressure reading:
. Systolic pressure: This is the first, or top, number. It indicates the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats and pumps out blood.
. Diastolic pressure: This is the second, or bottom, number. It’s the reading of the pressure in your arteries between beats of your heart.
Five categories define blood pressure readings for adults:
1.Healthy: A healthy blood pressure reading is less than 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).
2. Elevated: The systolic number is between 120 and 129 mm Hg, and the diastolic number is less than 80 mm Hg. Physicians usually don’t treat elevated blood pressure with medication. Instead, your physician may encourage lifestyle changes to help lower your numbers.
3. Stage 1 hypertension: The systolic number is between 130 and 139 mm Hg, or the diastolic number is between 80 and 89 mm Hg.
4. Stage 2 hypertension: The systolic number is 140 mm Hg or higher, or the diastolic number is 90 mm Hg.
5. Hypertensive crisis: The systolic number is over 180 mm Hg, or the diastolic number is over 120 mm Hg. Blood pressure in this range requires urgent medical attention.
If any symptoms such as chest pain, headache, shortness of breath, or visual changes occur when blood pressure is this high, medical care in the emergency room is needed.
For an accurate blood pressure reading, it’s a must that you have a cuff that’s fitting. An ill-fitting cuff may deliver inaccurate readings.
Blood pressure readings are different for children and teenagers. Ask your child’s physician for the healthy ranges for your child if you are monitoring their blood pressure.
Do you get occasional blood pressure monitoring? Maybe it's time you did.