Many people falsely believe they can physically tell if their pressure is rising, but the truth is there generally are no signs or symptoms. The only way to know if you have a problem is by taking a test. The test is a simple procedure that can be done at a doctor’s office, clinic, at stores that have pharmacies and at home.
When blood pressure is taken, the measurement itself is in millimeters of mercury which is what the mmHg means. A normal pressure level is less than 120/80 mmHg (120 over 80) which is considered a healthy range. A test measurement consists of two numbers. The top number is the systolic number and the bottom is called the diastolic number. The numbers have special meaning for certain age groups which is why it is so important to know the difference between the systolic and diastolic numbers.
When a person is diagnosed with pre-hypertension (120/80 – 139/89 mmHg), they have an opportunity to prevent high blood pressure. When the blood pressure reaches the level of 140/90 or above, they will be diagnosed with hypertension and this diagnosis will last forever since medical professionals do not believe there is a “cure”. This is why preventing high blood pressure is of utmost importance, the diagnosis will be on your medical records permanently.
Systolic Blood Pressure
The systolic number is the top number of a reading. It represents the force of the blood against the artery walls as the heart beats. If the systolic measurement is 140 or higher, then the force is considered to be in the high range. The systolic number is more important for individuals who are 50 years or older since this more accurately predicts high blood pressure (hypertension) in this age group. In an older American population, the systolic pressure will increase with age while the diastolic pressure will increase to about 55 years of age and then it will begin to decline.
Isolated systolic hypertension (ISH) is similar to other forms of high blood pressure (hypertension) in that it too is a dangerous risk factor and has no symptoms and like other forms must be diagnosed through testing. In older individuals who have been diagnosed with hypertension, over 60% will have ISH. If ISH is left untreated, the individual is at risk for heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, congestive heart failure and blindness.
ISH does not require any special treatment, it will be the same as anyone whose pressure readings are in the high range for both the systolic and diastolic numbers. A physician may want to start with lifestyle changes and if the systolic numbers are not brought under control, then move into medication. If the numbers are still high, then additional blood pressure drugs may have to be added.
Diastolic Blood Pressure
Diastolic pressure is the force of blood in the arteries as the heart relaxes between beats. The diastolic pressure is more important to younger individuals; however, as they age, the systolic pressure will become more important. The diastolic pressure (the lower number) does not have to be high in order for you to have high blood pressure. When this situation happens, the person is said to have a condition called ISH (isolated systolic hypertension).
Hypertension does not kill, it is the disease which develops as the result of the elevated pressure that kills. Hypertension causes the heart to work very hard and as a result, the arteries become stiff. When this happens, the risk of having a heart attack, the number one cause of death in America, increases. And, it also increases the risk for a stroke which is the third leading cause of death for Americans. Unfortunately, it does not stop there but the risk increases for kidney disease, heart failure, blindness and other health problems.
Each person is responsible for their own health decisions. A person who is pre-hypertensive has an opportunity to prevent their blood pressure from rising into the high category. For those whose is 140/90 and above, prevention is not possible, but control is.
At either junction, the individual has the ability to make choices to eat healthier, add moderate exercise to their daily routine, learn the skills necessary to keep daily stress in check and track their blood pressure numbers regularly. Preventing or controlling hypertension means drastically cutting the risk for other diseases that can ruin a person’s life both health wise and financially.
If you had to make a decision today and your life depended on it, what choice would YOU make?