Having no symptoms does not mean there’s no reason to be concerned.
On its own, high blood pressure, or hypertension, may not seem like a big deal. It doesn’t have any symptoms, after all, and you may feel “just fine” while you have it.
“Blood pressure is actually just the pressure that we measure in your arteries when the heart contracts and then relaxes,” says Michelle Weisfelner Bloom, MD, a cardiologist at Stony Brook University Medical Center.
The top number represents the pressure when your heart contracts (the systolic pressure), and the bottom shows the pressure when it relaxes (diastolic pressure). Blood pressure readings fall into one of four categories, according to Paul Knoepflmacher, MD, a clinical instructor in medicine at The Mount Sinai Hospital.
Normal blood pressure is less than 120 (systolic) over less than 80 (diastolic).
Elevated blood pressure is between 120 and 129 (systolic) over less than 80 (diastolic).
Hypertension stage 1 is between 130 and 139 (systolic) over 80 to 89 (diastolic).
Hypertension stage 2 is 140 or greater (systolic) over 90 or greater (diastolic).
Here’s more information about how to read blood pressure numbers to understand your heart health.
“Ultimately, when you have hypertension, it’s important for you to … get checked by your doctor on a regular basis,” says Rachel Bond, MD, a cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital.
Overlooking your high blood pressure (or not knowing you have it) can lead to a host of problems, and many of them quite serious. A 2010 report on the burden of global diseases found that high blood pressure had become the leading risk factor for diseases in the world, ranking above smoking, malnutrition, and communicable diseases.
Here are some of the risks associated with hypertension, according to Dr. Bond:
High BP can increase your risk of blockages in your heart. Clogged arteries stress and weaken the heart, and they are the primary cause of heart attacks. Over time, the workload from hypertension may lead to heart disease and heart failure. Learn the other risk factors for heart failure here.
High BP can increase your risk of stroke. When blood vessels in the brain are blocked, they are more likely to burst, causing a stroke. This, in turn, can increase your risk of vascular dementia.
High BP can increase your risk of kidney disease. Because hypertension can damage the arteries around the kidneys, this will affect their ability to filter blood properly, according to the American Heart Association.
“These are all major medical conditions,” says Dr. Bond. “The sooner we find out about them, the better off because then we can treat them adequately.” Heart disease and stroke are leading causes of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, so treating high blood pressure early could avert a life-or-death situation.
One suggestion? Know your personal risks. If you have one or more risk factors for heart disease, controlling your blood pressure can be an essential and proactive weapon, according to Dr. Knoepflmacher. Here are the lifestyle tweaks for a healthier heart.
Dr. Knoepflmacher is a clinical instructor of medicine at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, where he also maintains a private practice.Michelle Weisfelner Bloom
Dr. Bloom is an associate professor of medicine at Stony Brook University Medical Center, a fellow of the American College of Cardiology, and a fellow of the Heart Failure Society of America.Rachel Bond
Dr. Bond is a cardiologist and associate director of the Women's Heart Health Program at Northwell Health, Lenox Hill Hospital and an assistant professor of cardiology at Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine.
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We know that high blood pressure
is a major risk factor,
00:00:05,932 --> 00:00:09,902
probably the major risk factor for
00:00:09,902 --> 00:00:13,901
00:00:13,901 --> 00:00:18,309
So blood pressure is actually just the
pressure that we measure in your arteries
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when the heart contracts and
then the heart relaxes.
00:00:21,290 --> 00:00:25,448
So the top number of blood pressure,
called the systolic blood pressure,
00:00:25,448 --> 00:00:28,294
is the number that we get
when the heart contracts.
00:00:28,294 --> 00:00:31,538
And that's the pressure that pushes
against the inside of the artery.
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And the number on the bottom, which
we call the diastolic blood pressure,
00:00:35,570 --> 00:00:39,770
is the pressure on the inside of
the vessels when the heart is relaxing.
00:00:39,770 --> 00:00:44,128
Normal blood pressure is
considered less than 120 systolic and
00:00:44,128 --> 00:00:46,088
diastolic of less than 80.
00:00:46,088 --> 00:00:48,610
The next level is elevated blood pressure.
00:00:48,610 --> 00:00:53,850
That is constituted by
a systolic of 120 to 129 and
00:00:53,850 --> 00:00:56,757
a diastolic of less than 80.
00:00:56,757 --> 00:01:01,298
Next we have high blood pressure or
hypertension stage 1, and
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that's considered a systolic of 130
to 139 or a diastolic of 80 to 89.
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This is followed by high blood pressure,
or hypertension stage 2, which is 140 or
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higher on the systolic, or
90 or higher on the diastolic.
00:01:17,425 --> 00:01:20,259
Another name for
high blood pressure is hypertension.
00:01:20,259 --> 00:01:23,497
And ultimately, when you have
hypertension, it's important for
00:01:23,497 --> 00:01:26,445
you to sort of get checked by
your doctor on a regular basis.
00:01:26,445 --> 00:01:28,410
It can cause a weakness in your heart.
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It could increase your risk
of blockages in your heart.
00:01:30,720 --> 00:01:32,380
It could increase your risk of stroke.
00:01:32,380 --> 00:01:34,530
It could increase your
risk of kidney disease.
00:01:34,530 --> 00:01:36,880
These are all major medical conditions.
00:01:36,880 --> 00:01:39,610
And the sooner we find out about them,
the better off,
00:01:39,610 --> 00:01:41,710
because then we can treat them adequately.
00:01:41,710 --> 00:01:44,700
If a person has many risk factors for
heart disease or
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already has heart disease, controlling
the blood pressure is a way to slow
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the progression of the disease or
prevent further damage.
00:01:52,440 --> 00:01:55,820
So the majority of the time
patients don't actually feel
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any symptoms with high blood pressure.
00:01:57,280 --> 00:01:59,030
That's why it's called the silent killer.
00:01:59,030 --> 00:02:03,770
And that's why majority of the time it's
the most common cause of other cardiac
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diseases, like heart disease, for example.
00:02:05,810 --> 00:02:10,175
So really the only way for you to truly
know if you have elevated blood pressure
00:02:10,175 --> 00:02:12,877
is to go to your doctor and
get a wellness visit.
00:02:12,877 --> 00:02:18,793
Health threats from high blood pressure. Dallas, TX: American Heart Association, 2017. (Accessed on March 5, 2018 at http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/LearnHowHBPHarmsYourHealth/Health-Threats-From-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_002051_Article.jsp#.Wp2jQujwYdU.)High blood pressure fact sheet. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016. (Accessed on March 5, 2018 at https://www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fs_bloodpressure.htm.) Lim SS, Vos T, Flaxman AD, Danaei G, Shibuya K, Adair-Rohani H, et al. A comparative risk assessment of burden of disease and injury attributable to 67 risk factors and risk factor clusters in 21 regions, 1990-2010: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2010. Lancet. 2012 Dec;380(9859):2224-60. What are the symptoms of high blood pressure? Dallas, TX: American Heart Association, 2017. (Accessed on March 5, 2018 at http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/UnderstandSymptomsRisks/What-are-the-Symptoms-of-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_301871_Article.jsp#.Wp2V0-jwY2w.) Vascular dementia. National Stroke Foundation. (Accessed on March 5, 2018 at http://www.stroke.org/we-can-help/survivors/stroke-recovery/post-stroke-conditions/cognition/vascular-dementia.)