What is High Blood Pressure

Most people have heard the term High Blood Pressure and they know it’s bad, but just what is it?  Let’s take a look at high blood pressure and find out what it is, the damage it can cause, how to treat it, and how to prevent it.

What is Blood Pressure? Blood pressure measures the amount of force created pushing outward on the arterial walls when blood is moved through the circulatory system.  Your body needs oxygen and oxygen is carried through the body by blood.  When the heart beats, blood is pushed around the entire body through arteries and veins.  The blood pressure reading measures two forces; the force created when the heart beats and the force created when the heart rests.  These two pressures are represented by the two numbers taken in the blood pressure reading.

Systolic (top number) – The top number recorded when your blood pressure is taken is called the systolic.  It measures the pressure which is created when the heart muscle contracts or beats.  It is the higher number. More attention is often paid to the Systolic pressure as a risk factor for heart disease, especially for individuals 50 years old and older.

Diastolic (bottom number) – The bottom number recorded when your blood pressure is taken is called the diastolic.  It measures the pressure which is created when the heart muscle rests and the heart is refilled with blood.

Pulse Pressure – The difference between Systolic and Diastolic number is your pulse pressure.  If your Systolic number is 120 and your Diastolic number is 80 you pulse pressure is 40.  Pulse pressure above 60 often indicates high blood pressure.  It may be a strong predictor of heart problems. A high pulse pressure can also be caused by severe anemia and an overactive thyroid.

What is High Blood Pressure? High blood pressure, also called Hypertension or HBP is the excessive force created pushing outward on the arterial walls. Arteries and veins are made up of muscle and tissue which are flexible and stretches.  The more forcefully the blood is pushed through the vascular system, the more the arteries must stretch.  If they are over stretched over a long period of time many problems can occur.

A single high blood pressure reading may not indicate hypertension.  If your reading is 140/90 mm Hg or higher your doctor will take several readings.  If the systolic # (top number) remains at 140 or higher and/or the diastolic # (bottom number) stays at 90 or above you may be put on a treatment program which may include medications and life style changes.  If your systolic number is 180 or above and your diastolic number is 110 or above you should seek emergency medical treatment for a hypertensive crisis.

Even if your blood pressure is normal it is smart to learn ways to eat heart healthy and choose life style modifications to prevent hypertension.