High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, occurs when the force of blood traveling through arteries is too high. This high pressure can lead to other serious health problems, including heart attack, a decrease of blood flow to the brain (stroke), bulged blood vessel (aneurysm), and heart failure. African American ethnicity, obesity, chronic stress, family history, diabetes, and smoking are all risk factors for developing high blood pressure. A person can have high blood pressure without showing symptoms. If the pressure becomes high enough, it can cause symptoms that include a dull headache, nosebleeds, or dizzy spells.
A doctor can collect a blood pressure reading using an inflatable cuff that is wrapped around the arm. This reading is made up of two numbers: the systolic pressure (the top number) and the diastolic pressure (bottom number). The systolic number measures the pressure when the heart beats and fills the arteries with blood. The diastolic number measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between beats. A blood pressure reading of less than 120/80 is considered normal. If the reading is too high, your doctor will likely perform a physical exam and additional tests to look for a cause of the high blood pressure, including kidney problems or thyroid problems. However, most cases of high blood pressure do not have a known cause and typically just develop due to age. It is important for individuals with high blood pressure to be monitored regularly. The main form of high blood pressure treatment includes healthy lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise, a healthy diet with less salt, weight loss, and quitting smoking. In addition to incorporating these lifestyle changes, your doctor may prescribe medication to help lower the blood pressure. Talk with your doctor to decide which treatment option is best for you.