The ONE organ responsible for high blood pressure.
Do’s and Don’ts with Elevated Blood Pressure
High blood pressure usually develops over time. It can happen because of unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as not getting enough regular physical activity. Certain health conditions, such as diabetes and having obesity, can also increase the risk for developing high blood pressure.
- Normal blood pressure. Blood pressure is 120/80 mm Hg or lower.
- Elevated blood pressure. The top number ranges from 120 to 129 mm Hg and the bottom number is below (not above) 80 mm Hg.
- Stage 1 hypertension. The top number ranges from 130 to 139 mm Hg or the bottom number is between 80 to 89 mm Hg.
- Stage 2 hypertension. The top number is 140 mm Hg or higher or the bottom number is 90 mm Hg or higher.
SymptomsElevated blood pressure doesn't cause symptoms. The only way to detect it is to have regular blood pressure checks. Have your blood pressure measured when you visit your health care provider. You can also check it at home with a home blood pressure monitoring device.
When to see a doctorA child's blood pressure should be checked during routine well-check appointments starting at age 3. If the child has high blood pressure, a measurement should be taken at every follow-up appointment. Adults age 18 and older should have a blood pressure check at least every two years. You or your child might need more-frequent checks if you have elevated blood pressure or other risk factors for heart disease.
CausesAnything that increases pressure on the artery walls can lead to elevated blood pressure. A buildup of fats, cholesterol, and other substances in and on the artery walls (atherosclerosis) can cause elevated blood pressure. But the opposite is also true. High blood pressure (hypertension) can cause atherosclerosis. Sometimes, the cause of the elevated or high blood pressure isn't identified. Conditions and medications that can cause elevated blood pressure include:
- Adrenal gland disorders
- Heart problem affecting blood vessels present at birth (congenital heart defect)
- Illegal drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamines
- Kidney disease
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Some medications, including birth control pills, cold and sinus medicines, over-the-counter pain relievers containing caffeine, and some prescription drugs
- Thyroid disease
Risk factorsAnyone can have elevated blood pressure, even children. Risk factors for elevated blood pressure include:
- Obesity or being overweight. Obesity makes you more likely to have high blood pressure. High blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease and strokes.
- Family history of high blood pressure. You're more likely to develop elevated blood pressure if you have a parent or sibling with the condition.
- Not being physically active. Not exercising can cause weight gain. Increased weight raises the risk of elevated blood pressure.
- Diet high in salt (sodium) or low in potassium. Sodium and potassium are two nutrients that the body needs to control blood pressure. If you have too much sodium or too little potassium in your diet, you may develop elevated blood pressure.
- Tobacco use. Smoking cigarettes, chewing tobacco or being around smoke (secondhand smoke) can increase blood pressure.
- Drinking too much alcohol. Alcohol use has been linked with elevated blood pressure, particularly in men.
- Certain chronic conditions. Kidney disease, diabetes and sleep apnea, among others, can increase the risk of elevated blood pressure.
- Age. Simply getting older raises the risk for increased blood pressure.
- Race. Elevated blood pressure is particularly common among Black people and usually develops at an earlier age than it does in white people.
ComplicationsElevated blood pressure can worsen and develop into long-term high blood pressure as a health condition (hypertension). Hypertension can damage body organs. It increases the risk of heart attacks, heart failure, strokes, aneurysms and kidney failure.
PreventionThe same healthy lifestyle changes recommended to treat elevated blood pressure also help prevent it. Eat healthy foods, use less salt, don't smoke, exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight, avoid or limit alcohol, and manage stress.
Your blood pressure is considered high (stage 1) if it reads 130/80. Stage 2 high blood pressure is 140/90 or higher. If you get a blood pressure reading of 180/110 or higher more than once, seek medical treatment right away