High Blood Pressure

Is this your symptom?

  • Systolic blood pressure greater than 140 or
  • Diastolic blood pressure greater than 90 or
  • Taking medications for high blood pressure

Some Basics...

  • Blood pressure (BP) measures the force of blood pumped by the heart on arteries. Arteries are blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart to the body. High BP can cause damage to body organs.
  • Readings from home BP measurement devices are not always right. BP should be checked in both arms. Check another adult's BP to see if the device is working. If it is still not clear that the machine is working, have BP checked by a doctor.
  • If hypertension is not treated, it may cause heart, brain, kidney, or eye problems. Treating high BP can decrease the risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart failure.

What is Hypertension?

Hypertension and high blood pressure mean the same thing. An adult has hypertension if most of his or her BP readings are greater than 140/90. This means that the systolic BP is over 140 or the diastolic BP is over 90.

What Do the Words "Systolic" and "Diastolic" Mean?

The BP reading is written as two numbers. The two numbers are the systolic pressure and the diastolic pressure. If a person has a BP of 130/65, then 130 is the systolic BP and 65 is the diastolic BP. Systolic pressure is the BP when the heart beats. Diastolic pressure is the BP when the heart is resting between beats.

How is Blood Pressure Classified in Adults?

  • Normal: Less than 120/80
  • Pre-hypertension: Between 120-139/80-89
  • Hypertension - Stage 1: Between 140-159/90-99
  • Hypertension - Stage 2: Greater than 159/99

When to Call for High Blood Pressure

Call 911 Now

  • You think you are having a stroke or a heart attack
  • Trouble waking up or acting confused
  • You think you have a life-threatening emergency

Call Doctor Now or Go to ER

  • Your BP is over 200/120
  • You feel weak or very sick
  • You think you need to be seen, and the problem is urgent

Call Doctor Within 24 Hours

  • Your BP is over 180/110 and you are feeling fine
  • Your BP is over 140/90 and you are less than 20 weeks pregnant
  • You ran out of BP medications
  • Taking BP medications and you think you are having side effects (impotence, cough, feeling dizzy)
  • You think you need to be seen, but the problem is not urgent

Call Doctor During Office Hours

  • Your BP is over 140/90 and you are feeling fine
  • Your BP is over 130/80 and you have any heart problems, kidney disease, or diabetes
  • Your BP is still over 120/80 and after one month of lifestyle changes (see Care Advice)
  • You have other questions or concerns

Self Care at Home

  • Your BP is between 120-139/80-89 (pre-hypertension) and you are feeling fine
  • Your BP is less than 120/80 (normal BP)

Care Advice

High Blood Pressure (BP)

  1. What You Should Know:
    • If you do not treat high BP, it may cause heart, brain, kidney, or eye problems. Treating high BP can decrease the risk of stroke, heart attack, and heart failure.
    • Healthy living habits can help you to lower your BP.
    • For most people with hypertension, the goal is to keep their BP under 140/90.
    • Here is some care advice that should help.
  2. BP Less Than 120/80:
    • This is normal blood pressure.
  3. BP 120-139/80-89:
    • This is considered borderline high BP. It is also called pre-hypertension.
    • Sometimes, changes in your lifestyle can decrease your BP without medications.
    • If your BP stays high during the next month, have it checked by a doctor.
  4. Lifestyle Changes: These can help you decrease your blood pressure.
    • Stay at a healthy weight. Lose weight if you are overweight.
    • Do 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week. This can include doing aerobics, running, or taking a brisk walk.
    • Eat a diet high in fresh fruits and low-fat dairy products. Limit your intake of saturated and total fat. Choose foods that are lower in salt.
    • If you smoke, you should stop.
    • You should limit your daily drinking of alcohol. Women should have no more than one drink per day. Men should have no more than 2 drinks per day. A drink is 1.5 oz hard liquor (one shot; 45 ml), 4 oz wine (small glass; 120 ml), or 12 oz. beer (one can; 360 ml).
  5. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Headache, blurry eyesight, or trouble talking or walking
    • Chest pain or trouble breathing
    • You want to go in to the office for a BP check
    • You think you need to be seen
    • You get worse

Missed Dose of Blood Pressure (BP) Medication

  1. What to Do When You Miss a Dose of Your BP Medication:
    • Generally, you should take a missed dose as soon as you remember.
    • If it is more than 8 hours until your next dose, take the missed dose of medication now.
    • If it is less than 8 hours until your next dose, skip the missed dose. Then take the medicine at the next regularly scheduled time.
    • Do NOT take 2 doses if a blood pressure medication at the same time because you missed a dose.
  2. Call Your Doctor If:
    • Headache, blurry eyesight, or trouble talking or walking
    • Chest pain or trouble breathing
    • You want to go in to the office for a BP check
    • You think you need to be seen
    • You get worse

Internet Resource - National High Blood Pressure Education Program

And remember, contact your doctor if you develop any of the 'Call Your Doctor' symptoms.

Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.


Last Reviewed: 10/18/2017 1:25:58 AM
Last Updated: 5/7/2017 1:36:08 PM

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