High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

Monitoring & Treatment

Dr. Phil Mitchell
Medically reviewed by Dr. Phil MitchellMarch 30th, 2024
DispatchHealth providers in the filed

Your circulatory system is made up of blood vessels that carry blood throughout the body. Blood pressure is the amount of pressure these vessels experience as they do their work. It’s normal for blood pressure to vary throughout the day and throughout a person’s life in response to factors like hydration, diet, stress and medications.

Blood pressure numbers of less than 120/80 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury) are considered within the normal range. Blood pressure that exceeds this level is called elevated or high blood pressure or hypertension, depending on the level. Over time, high blood pressure can damage vital organs, raising the risk of serious problems like stroke, heart failure, kidney issues, vision loss and erectile dysfunction.

High Blood Pressure Causes and Symptoms

While there isn’t usually one single reason for high blood pressure, factors like family history, age, obesity, race, lack of exercise, smoking, alcohol use and a high-salt diet can all contribute. It is important to monitor blood pressure, especially if you have risk factors, because often the condition causes no symptoms until it has already caused organ damage.

High Blood Pressure Treatment and Management

If you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure or told you are at risk, be sure to follow these guidelines.

  • Take blood pressure medications as prescribed.
  • Limit salt intake to less than 2,000 mg/day. This means not adding extra salt to food and avoiding limiting canned and packaged foods to those labeled “low sodium.”
  • Avoid smoking and limit alcohol to no more than 2 drinks per day for a man and 1 drink per day for a woman.
  • Be cautious with over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen (Advil) and decongestants that can raise blood pressure. Read labels carefully and check with your healthcare provider if you’re not sure.
  • Stay physically active with activities like walking, aiming for 30 minutes and increasing your activity level.
  • If you are overweight, losing just 10 pounds can improve your health.
  • If possible, monitor your blood pressure using an automatic cuff twice daily for a week or two, and share these results with your primary healthcare provider.
  • Follow up with your primary care provider in 1 week to re-check blood pressure and review measurements.

When to Seek Medical Attention

Get seen by a healthcare professional right away if you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure and are experiencing any of these symptoms.

  • Chest pain, pressure, or discomfort
  • Shortness of breath, especially when walking or lying flat
  • Severe headache
  • Sudden numbness or weakness on one side of the face or body
  • Feeling dizzy or weak
  • Fainting or feeling like you might faint
  • Mental confusion

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