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High Blood Pressure Q & A

What is high blood pressure?

The term blood pressure refers to the pressure placed on the walls of the arteries by the blood inside of them. High blood pressure, called hypertension, is diagnosed when the pressure of the blood in the vessels consistently exceeds normal ranges. In most cases, blood pressure should be less than 120/80, but high blood pressure typically isn’t diagnosed until blood pressure consistently exceeds 140/90. When blood pressure falls between these two values, it signals prehypertension and the provider and the patient work together to lower blood pressure and prevent hypertension.

What are the symptoms of high blood pressure?

In most cases, high blood pressure is not accompanied by symptoms. Regular annual physicals are critical in early detection and treatment of hypertension. In some cases, patients with high blood pressure develop subconjunctival hemorrhage (blood in the eye), dizziness, or facial flushing.

Does high blood pressure pose any risks to the patient?

Yes. High blood pressure can silently and extensively damage the patient’s body before symptoms ever appear. The risks of untreated high blood pressure are serious and many:

  • Coronary artery disease, which can cause chest pain or heart attack
  • Left ventricular hypertrophy (enlarged, thickened left ventricle of the heart)
  • Heart failure
  • Narrowed and damaged arteries
  • Aneurysm (bulged artery at risk of rupture and life-threatening bleeding)
  • Stroke and transient ischemic attack (mini stroke)
  • Dementia
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Kidney failure
  • Scarring of the kidneys
  • Renal (kidney) aneurysm
  • Retinopathy (bleeding in the eye, vision loss)
  • Choroidopathy (fluid under the retina causing impaired vision)
  • Damage to the optic nerve and related vision loss
  • Osteoporosis
  • Sleep apnea
  • Sexual dysfunction in both men and women

Because most patients do not experience any symptoms at all and high blood pressure can result in life-threatening illness, regular screening is vital.

Can high blood pressure be prevented?

While not all risk factors are within the patient’s control, there are many steps patients can take to limit their risk of high blood pressure:

  • Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and low in salt
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Get plenty of exercise
  • Quit smoking
  • Drink in moderation (no more than 1 drink per day for women and 2 per day for men)

The qualified team at Family Primary Care can help patients limit their risk.