When you have high blood pressure (also known as hypertension), this means that the pressure in your arteries is higher than what’s deemed safe. When reading blood pressure levels, physicians look at two numbers – the top, systolic number, which is the pressure when the heart is beating; and the bottom, diastolic number, which is the pressure when the heart is resting in between beats.
Blood pressure is separated into five separate categories:
- Stage 1 Hypertension
- Stage 2 Hypertension
- Hypertensive Crisis
Normal Blood Pressure
With normal blood pressure, your systolic readings should be less than 120, while your diastolic levels should be less than 80.
Elevated Blood Pressure
With elevated blood pressure, your systolic levels can range anywhere from 120 to 129, while your diastolic levels will be less than 80.
Stage 1 Hypertension
With stage 1 hypertension, your systolic levels can range anywhere from 130 to 139, while your diastolic levels can range between 80 and 89.
Stage 2 Hypertension
With stage 2 hypertension, your systolic levels will be 140 or higher, while your diastolic levels will be 90 or higher.
When your blood pressure reaches a hypertensive crisis, your systolic levels will be higher than 180, while your diastolic levels will be higher than 120. This is considered a medical emergency and you should consult with your physician immediately.
Given the fact that high blood pressure often comes with no symptoms, it can be dangerous and sometimes even deadly. However, there are certain risk factors and things that I recommend paying attention to…
For example, you are at a higher risk of developing high blood pressure if you are a smoker or are exposed to second-hand smoke, are overweight or obese, have high cholesterol, have diabetes, chronic kidney disease, obstructive sleep apnea, are not physically active, have an unhealthy diet, and drink excessive amounts of alcohol. Your age, race/ethnicity and gender also play a factor in whether or not you are at an increased risk of developing high blood pressure, as well as whether or not there is a history of high blood pressure in your family.
Preventing High Blood Pressure
In order to decrease your risk of developing high blood pressure, there are certain lifestyle changes I recommend making. First and foremost, do not smoke. Secondly, it’s important to maintain a healthy weight and eat a healthy diet (i.e. one that is low in trans fats and saturated fats, low in sodium, and high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products.) Staying physically fit by engaging in low-impact exercise can also be beneficial and is something I strongly suggest.
How to Tell If You Have High Blood Pressure
As mentioned, high blood pressure often comes with no symptoms, so they only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to have it monitored by your physician. Once it is deemed that you do (or do not) have high blood pressure, your physician will be able to guide you in the right direction in terms of finding a treatment plan that is best suited for you – including making some of the aforementioned lifestyle changes – and, if necessary, also prescribing medication.