Blood pressure measurements fall into several categories :
Normal blood pressure. Your blood pressure is normal if it is below 120/80 mmHg.
High blood pressure. High blood pressure is systolic pressure between 120 and 129 mmHg
a diastolic pressure lower (not higher) than 80 mmHg.
High blood pressure tends to worsen over time unless steps are taken to control blood pressure. High blood pressure can be the beginning of Hypertension.
Stage 1 hypertension is a systolic pressure between 130 and 139 mmHg or a diastolic pressure between 80 and 89 mmHg.
Stage 2 hypertension. More severe hypertension, stage 2 hypertension is a pressure :
systolic of 140 mmHg or more or diastolic of 90 mmHg or more.
A blood pressure measurement above 180/120 mmHg is an emergency situation that requires urgent medical attention.
If you get this result when you take your blood pressure at home, wait five minutes and do the test again. If your blood pressure is still high, contact your doctor immediately.
If you also have chest pain, vision problems, numbness or weakness, difficulty breathing, or any other signs and symptoms of a stroke or heart attack, call the emergency medical number.
Both numbers in a blood pressure reading are important.
After the age of 50, systolic reading is even more important.
Isolated systolic hypertension, or diastolic pressure is normal (less than 80 mmHg) but systolic pressure is high (greater than or equal to 130 mmHg). This is a common type of high blood pressure in people over the age of 65.
Since blood pressure normally varies throughout the day and may rise during a visit to the doctor (hypertension due to apprehension of the white coat), your doctor will likely take several blood pressure measurements at three or more separate appointments before diagnosing you with high blood pressure.
Taking your blood pressure at home
Home monitoring is an important way to confirm if you have high blood pressure, check if your antihypertensive treatment is working, or diagnose worsening high blood pressure.
Home blood pressure monitors are widely available and inexpensive, and you don't need a prescription to buy one. Home blood pressure monitoring is not a substitute for visits to your doctor, and home blood pressure monitors may have some limitations.
Be sure to use a validated device and check that the cuff fits properly. Bring the monitor with you to your doctor's office to check its accuracy once a year. Talk to your doctor about how to start checking your blood pressure at home.
Laboratory tests. Your doctor may recommend a urinalysis (urinalysis) test and blood tests, including a cholesterol test.
Changing your lifestyle can help control and manage high blood pressure. Your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes, including :
Eat a heart-healthy diet with less salt
Regular physical activity
Maintain a healthy weight or lose weight if you are overweight or obese
Limit the amount of alcohol you drink
But sometimes lifestyle changes are not enough. If diet and exercise don't help, your doctor may recommend medications to lower your blood pressure.
How Prescribed Medications Work
The type of medication your doctor prescribes for high blood pressure depends on your blood pressure measurements and your overall health. Two or more blood pressure medications often work better than one. Sometimes finding the most effective drug or combination of drugs is a matter of trials.
Medications used to treat high blood pressure include:
Diuretics. Diuretics, sometimes called diuretics, are medications that help your kidneys remove sodium and water from the body. These drugs are often the first drugs prescribed to treat high blood pressure.
There are different classes of diuretics, including thiazide, loop and potassium sparing diuretics. Which one your doctor recommends depends on your blood pressure measurements and other health problems, such as kidney disease or heart failure.
A common side effect of diuretics is an increase in urination, which could reduce potassium levels. If you have low potassium, your doctor may add a potassium-sparing diuretic to your treatment.
Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors. These drugs help relax blood vessels by blocking the formation of a natural chemical that narrows blood vessels.
Angiotensin receptor blockers. These drugs relax blood vessels by blocking the action, not the formation, of a natural chemical that narrows blood vessels.
Calcium channel blockers. These drugs, help to relax the muscles of your blood vessels. Some slow down your heart rate.
It is generally not recommended to take grapefruit products when taking calcium channel blockers. Grapefruit increases blood levels of certain calcium channel blockers, which can be dangerous. Talk to your doctor.
Additional medications sometimes prescribed by doctors to treat high blood pressure.
If you are struggling to reach your blood pressure goal with combinations of the above medications, your doctor may prescribe:
-Alpha blockers. These drugs reduce nerve signals to blood vessels, thereby reducing the effects of natural chemicals that narrow blood vessels.
Alpha-beta-blockers block nerve signals to blood vessels and slow the heart rate to reduce the amount of blood that needs to be pumped into the vessels.
-Beta-blockers. These drugs reduce your heart's workload and widen your blood vessels, causing your heart to beat slower and with less force.
-Aldosterone antagonists. These drugs are also considered diuretics. These drugs block the effect of a natural chemical that can lead to a buildup of salt and fluid, which can contribute to high blood pressure. They can be used to treat resistant hypertension.
-Renin inhibitors slow down the production of renin, an enzyme produced by your kidneys that triggers a chain of chemical steps that increases blood pressure.
-Vasodilators. These act directly on the muscles of the walls of your arteries, preventing the muscles from contracting and your arteries from narrowing.
-Agents with central action. These drugs prevent your brain from telling your nervous system to increase your heart rate and narrow your blood vessels.
You should always take your blood pressure medications as prescribed by your doctor. Never skip a dose or abruptly stop taking your blood pressure medications. Sudden discontinuation of certain hypertension medications, such as beta-blockers, can cause a sharp increase in blood pressure (rebound hypertension).
If you skip doses because you can't afford the medications, because you have side effects, or because you simply forget to take your medication, talk to your doctor about solutions. Do not change your treatment without the advice of your doctor.
Lifestyle and home remedies
Lifestyle changes can help you control and prevent high blood pressure, even if you are taking blood pressure medications. Here's what you can do :
Eat healthy foods. Eat a heart-healthy diet. Try the diet : fruits, vegetables, whole grains, poultry, fish and low-fat dairy products. Consume plenty of potassium, which can help prevent and control high blood pressure. Eat less saturated and trans fats.
Decrease salt in your diet. Try to limit sodium to less than 2,300 mg/day or less. However, a lower sodium intake – 1,500 mg/day or less – is ideal for most adults.
While you can reduce the amount of salt you consume by laying down the salt shaker, you should also pay attention to the amount of salt contained in the processed foods you eat, such as bagged soups or frozen dinners.
Maintain a healthy weight. Maintaining a healthy weight or losing weight if you are overweight or obese can help you control your high blood pressure and reduce your risk of related health problems.
In general, you can reduce your blood pressure by about 1 mmHg with every kilogram you lose.
Increase physical activity. Regular physical activity can help lower your blood pressure, manage stress, control your weight, and reduce your risk of many health problems.
If you have high blood pressure, constant moderate-to-high-intensity workouts can reduce your upper blood pressure by about 11 mm Hg and the lower value by about 5 mm Hg.
Aim for at least 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity.
Limit alcohol. Even if you are healthy, alcohol can raise your blood pressure. If you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For healthy adults, this means up to one drink a day for women and up to two drinks a day for men.
Do not smoke. Tobacco can damage the walls of blood vessels and speed up the process of plaque buildup in the arteries. If you smoke, ask your doctor to help you quit.
Manage stress. Reduce stress as much as possible. Practice healthy coping techniques, such as muscle relaxation, deep breathing, or mindfulness. Regular physical activity and plenty of sleep can also help.
Monitor your blood pressure at home. Home blood pressure monitoring allows you to keep a daily diary of blood pressure measurements. Your doctor may review the information to determine if your medication is working or if you have any complications.
Monitoring blood pressure at home is not a substitute for visits to your doctor. Even if you get normal readings, don't stop or change your medications or change your diet without talking to your doctor first.
If your blood pressure is under control, ask your doctor how often you should check it.
Practice relaxation or slow, deep breathing. Practice breathing deeply and slowly to relax. Some research shows that slow, rhythmic breathing (five to seven deep breaths per minute) combined with mindfulness techniques can reduce blood pressure.
Control blood pressure during pregnancy. Women with high blood pressure should discuss with their doctor how to control their blood pressure during pregnancy.
While diet and exercise are the most appropriate tactics to lower your blood pressure, some supplements can also help lower it. However, more research is needed to determine the potential benefits. These supplements include:
Fiber, such as blond psyllium and wheat bran
Minerals, such as magnesium, calcium and potassium
Supplements or products that increase nitric oxide or widen blood vessels (vasodilators), such as cocoa, coenzyme Q10, L-arginine and garlic
Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish, high-dose fish oil supplements and flaxseed
While it's best to include these supplements in your diet as foods, you can also take supplement capsules. Talk to your doctor before adding any of these supplements to your blood pressure treatment. Some supplements can interact with medications, causing harmful side effects, such as an increased risk of potentially life-threatening bleeding.
You can also practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or mindfulness, to help you relax and reduce your stress levels. These practices can temporarily lower your blood pressure.
Since some medications, such as over-the-counter cold medications, painkillers, antidepressants, oral contraceptives, and others, can raise your blood pressure, it may be a good idea to bring a list of medications and supplements you're taking to your doctor.
Don't stop taking prescription medications that you think could affect your blood pressure without your doctor's advice.
It's never too early to adopt healthy lifestyle habits, such as quitting smoking, eating healthy foods and exercising more. These are the main ways to protect yourself from high blood pressure and its complications, including heart attacks and strokes.