High blood pressure, a chronic condition also known as hypertension, affects nearly half of American adults. MainStreet Family Care has all the details on diagnosing, managing and treating high blood pressure.

What Is High Blood Pressure? 

First, let’s define blood pressure. Your heart pumps blood through your arteries, which carry that blood to other parts of your body. When it pumps through the arteries, blood pushes against blood vessel walls, and we call this blood pressure.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, occurs when blood pressure is higher than normal on a consistent basis. The higher your blood pressure, the harder your heart has to work to get blood to the rest of your body.

This condition can also damage your arteries. It can make the arteries elastic and decrease the amount of oxygen your organs get.

Primary and Secondary Hypertension

Hypertension can be broken down into two categories: Primary and Secondary.

Primary, or essential hypertension, accounts for most diagnoses. Scientists don’t know the specific cause for primary hypertension. We believe that a combination of lifestyle, diet, genetics and age contribute to this condition.

Secondary hypertension makes up about 5 to 10 percent of high blood pressure diagnoses. This type has an identifiable (and possibly reversible) cause. Typical causes include:

  • obstructive sleep apnea
  • adrenal gland disease
  • side effects from certain medications
  • hormone abnormalities
  • thyroid abnormalities

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Symptoms Of Hypertension

Despite how common this condition is, many people with high blood pressure don’t know that they have it. The only sure fire way to determine if you have it is to have your blood pressure measured by a medical professional. MainStreet offers high blood pressure testing and treatment in our primary care services.

If you already have a hypertension diagnosis or are concerned, be on the lookout for symptoms like:

  • Dizziness
  • Vision issues
  • Abnormal heart beats or rhythm
  • Chest pain
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty breathing

Since symptoms can be hard to detect, you can stay on top of your blood pressure by getting an annual check-up.

Who’s at Risk for High Blood Pressure?

The risk of developing high blood pressure depends on several factors. These include lifestyle, family history, stress level, medications and other conditions. Men are more likely to develop hypertension than women; however, many women still struggle with this condition.

Some additional risk factors for developing elevated blood pressure include:

  • Smoking or using tobacco products
  • Unbalanced diet, including high sodium intake
  • Limited physical activity
  • Heavy alcohol consumption

Limiting these factors and behaviors decreases your risk of high blood pressure significantly.

In fact, women between 20 and 44 experience high blood pressure during pregnancy at a rate of 1 in 12 to 17 pregnancies. If you’re pregnant and experiencing high blood pressure, talk to your provider to make a plan to manage it.

Diagnosis and Testing for Hypertension

A medical provider diagnoses hypertension with a blood pressure reading. We measure blood pressure as millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).

Blood pressure readings have two numbers listed as a fraction. The top number tells you the systolic blood pressure which measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats. The bottom number tells you the diastolic blood pressure which measures the pressure in your arteries between heart beats.

Normal blood pressure caps at 120 mm Hg for the top number and below 80 mm Hg for the bottom. Generally, hypertension is any blood pressure reading of 130/80 mm Hg or higher.

Under the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association guidelines, blood pressure measurements break out into the following categories:

  • Normal: Systolic pressure below 120 mm Hg and diastolic pressure below 80 mm Hg
  • Elevated: Systolic pressure between 120 – 129 mm Hg and diastolic pressure below 80 mm Hg
  • Stage 1 Hypertension: Systolic pressure between 130 – 139 mm Hg or diastolic pressure between 80 – 89 mm Hg
  • Stage 2 Hypertension: Systolic pressure above 140 mm Hg or diastolic pressure above 90 mm Hg
  • Hypertensive Crisis: Systolic pressure above 180 mm Hg and/or diastolic pressure above 120 mm Hg

If your blood pressure is higher than normal, your provider may run some other tests, like:

  • Blood sugar tests
  • Cholesterol tests
  • Blood tests to check kidney, liver and thyroid function
  • ECG or EKG
  • Ambulatory monitoring
  • Echocardiogram

These tests can help your provider determine what’s causing or worsening the issue.

Treating High Blood Pressure

Luckily, managing high blood pressure tends to be pretty easy! For secondary hypertension, you can work with your doctor to identify and avoid the cause. With primary hypertension, most symptoms respond to lifestyle changes like:

  • adding healthy foods to your diet
  • exercising three to four times every week
  • limiting alcohol consumption
  • reducing stress
  • stopping smoking and tobacco consumption

Your provider may also prescribe medications to help manage your blood pressure. Some common blood pressure medications include:

  • Diuretics
  • Beta-blockers
  • Alpha-blockers
  • ACE inhibitors
  • ARBs
  • Calcium channel blockers

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Step 2: Schedule Your First Appointment 

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Complications of Hypertension

Untreated hypertension can cause a variety of other diseases and conditions. Since high blood pressure restricts your blood flow, your circulatory system has to work overtime. Long-term hypertension can lead to conditions like:

  • Heart attack
  • Hypertensive crisis – This is the sudden and unexpected rising of blood pressure to dangerous levels. People that experience this should wear a blood pressure monitor.
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Chest pain
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Heart failure

How to Prevent High Blood Pressure

Preventing high blood pressure lines up with the same lifestyle changes that can help treat symptoms. Leading a healthy life is crucial to maintaining normal blood pressure. You can try:

  • Eating a healthy, balanced diet
  • Exercising regularly – The CDC recommends 30 minutes of exercise about five days of the week.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Cutting back on alcohol and tobacco use
  • Visiting your primary care provider yearly

We highly recommend taking these steps if you’re over thirty or even just worried about your overall health.

Turn to MainStreet Family Care

Worried about your blood pressure? MainStreet Family Care is here to help. To take advantage of our primary care services, sign up through the patient portal and schedule your first appointment. We can even provide same and next-day appointments so you can get quality care close to home.

Sign Up Now! 

Step 1: Signup for the Patient Portal 

Step 2: Schedule Your First Appointment 

Register New Patient Portal Account

If you already have a portal account, simply log in.