High Blood Pressure

What is hypertension?

  • Hypertension is when the blood pressure changes to an elevated rate in your arteries. Most of the consequences of hypertension occur over a long period of time. When your blood pressure changes to an elevated rate for many months, or years, damage to your internal organs may occur as a result.

There are 2 main types of hypertension: Primary and secondary

  • Primary hypertension occurs as a result of problems in your body, or electrolyte imbalances. This is also called essential hypertension. It also can occur if you are overweight, take in too much sodium, alcohol, or due to cigarette smoking.
  • Primary hypertension is the most common type of high blood pressure, however in 95% of cases, no causes can be found.
  • Secondary hypertension may occur as a result of many diseases and conditions, including medications, heart problems from birth, kidney disease, estrogen use, or other diseases of the endocrine system.
  • "White coat" hypertension is a category of hypertension, when the blood pressure changes to an elevated rate in the doctor's office, and the individual has normal blood pressure readings at home. High blood pressure readings in the office were once considered unimportant, as the blood pressures returned to normal at home. Now, many researchers conclude that people with white coat hypertension should be treated the same as those with regular hypertension. High blood pressure is high blood pressure, no matter what causes it when the reading was taken.
  • Fifty million Americans have elevated blood pressure, but only a little more than half of them are aware of their diagnosis.
  • The percentage of individuals who have elevated blood pressure levels increases with age, and is greater in individuals who are of African American heritage.

Risk factors: Causes of hypertension are many. The risk factors for high blood pressure that you can change, also called modifiable, include:

  • Obesity
  • Lack of physical activity.
  • Sodium intake
  • Alcohol and drug use, caffeine intake.

Factors for high blood pressure that you cannot change, include:

  • Genetics
  • Age
  • Race
  • Other diseases and conditions.

What are some high blood pressure symptoms to look for?

  • Most people do not notice any symptoms of high blood pressure. This is why high blood pressure is known as "the silent killer," because most people do not notice symptoms immediately.
  • Some individuals may experience headaches when blood pressure changes to an elevated rate.
  • If you are having an "acute" or suddenly serious event, you may experience nausea, dizziness, and loss of vision, severe headaches, or confusion. If these symptoms occur, seek emergency assistance.

Things you can do to manage high blood pressure:

The American Heart Association recommendations for elevated blood pressure:

With any elevated blood pressure readings, your doctor or healthcare provider may suggest that you:

  • Quit smoking
  • Exercise most days of the week, for at least 20 to 30 minutes at a time.
  • Try to reduce the amount of stress in your life by following relaxation techniques.
  • Eat a diet that is low in saturated fat and cholesterol, low in sodium, with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight.
  • Avoid alcohol use. Limit caffeine intake.
  • Again, with low blood pressure, safety and treating the underlying cause is the greatest concern.
  • Try to reduce the amount of stress in your life. Use relaxation techniques to decrease the amount of anxiety you have. If you feel anxious, place yourself in a quiet environment, and close your eyes. Take slow, steady, deep breaths, and try to concentrate on things that have relaxed you in the past.
  • If you have hypertension, you may be told to reduce the amount of salt you are eating in a day. Many times, it may be restricted to about 2 grams of sodium per day. A diet lower in salt potentially causes a decrease in the amount of work that is placed on your heart. You should discuss this with your healthcare provider how you can specifically use your diet to stimulate changes in high blood pressure. Also, eat a diet that is low in saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, and with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Other things you can do to stimulate changes in high blood pressure:

  • Make sure you tell your doctor, as well as all healthcare providers, about any other medications you are taking (including over-the-counter, vitamins, or herbal remedies).
  • Remind your doctor or healthcare provider if you have a history of diabetes, liver, kidney, or heart disease.
  • Keep a diary of your any abnormal symptoms, to report to your healthcare provider. These may include excessive fatigue, shortness of breath or chest pain.
  • Questions to ask yourself, may include:
  • Did my symptoms of blood pressure changes occur gradually, or did this episode come on all of a sudden?
  • Was I feeling anxious?
  • Did I perform any kind of activity, or was I resting?
  • If you are ordered a medication to treat your high blood pressure, do not stop taking it unless your healthcare provider tells you to. Take the medication exactly as directed. Do not share your pills with anyone.
  • If you miss a dose of your medication, discuss with your healthcare provider what you should do.
  • If you experience symptoms or side effects, especially if severe, be sure to discuss them with your health care team. They can prescribe medications and/or offer other suggestions that are effective in managing problems that high blood pressure causes.
  • Keep all your appointments for your treatments.

Drugs and recommendations that may be prescribed by your health care provider:

Blood Pressure Values and Action by Health Care Provider   If the top number is:If the bottom number is:Your health care provider may:Systolic BP 140-149 Diastolic BP 90-99Confirm BP reading in 2 monthsSystolic BP 130-139Diastolic BP 85-89Recheck BP in 1 yearYour doctor or healthcare provider may prescribe certain drugs to treat your hypertension. Diuretics and beta-blockers are the most common types of medications used to treat high blood pressure initially, upon diagnosis.

Some other drugs that are commonly used to treat high blood pressure may include:

  • ACE inhibitors - These drugs work by opening, or dilating, your arteries. They will lower your blood pressure, which causes improved blood flow to your kidneys, and throughout your body. Your healthcare provider may also prescribe these medications if you have diabetes or protein in your urine, to protect your kidneys. Some examples of this medication may include: Enalapril maleate (Vasotec®), Lisinopril (Zestril®), and fosinopril sodium (Monopril®)
  • Beta-blockers - can be used to slow down your heart rate, which causes improved blood flow through your body. You may take this drug if you have been diagnosed with irregular heartbeats, palpitations, heart failure, or high blood pressure. Some examples of this medication may include: Metoprolol (Lopressor®), propanolol (Inderal®), and atenolol (Tenormin®).
  • Calcium Channel Blockers - These medications may be given to treat chest pain, high blood pressure, or irregular heartbeats. A few common drugs include Verapamil HCL (Calan®), and Diltiazem (Dilacor®XR).
  • Diuretics - may be known as "water pills" as they work to prevent or treat high blood pressure by making you urinate out extra fluid. Some examples of this medication may include furosemide (Lasix®), and Hydrochlorthiazide. You may receive this medication alone or in combination with other medications.
  • Digoxin - Also called digitalis, this medication causes the heart rate to slow down, making it beat more effectively. This will pump blood throughout the body better. It is also called Lanoxin®.
  • Vasodilators - are drugs that work by opening up or "dilating" the vessels. These may include isosorbide dinitrate (Isordil®).
  • Do not stop any of these medications abruptly, especially if you are prescribed any anti-arrhythmia drugs or beta blockers, as serious side effects may occur.

When to call your doctor or health care provider about symptoms of blood pressure changes:

  • Shortness of breath, chest pain or discomfort; swelling of your lips or throat should be evaluated immediately- especially if you are taking new medications, or have a history of elevated blood pressure.
  • If you are having an "acute" or suddenly serious event, you may experience nausea, dizziness, and loss of vision, severe headaches, or confusion. If these symptoms of blood pressure changes occur, seek emergency assistance.
  • Feeling your heart beat rapidly (palpitations).
  • Bleeding that does not stop after a few minutes, blood in your urine or stool.
  • Any new rashes on your skin, especially if you are taking new medications.
  • Any unusual swelling in your feet and legs, weight gain of greater than 3 to 5 pounds in 1 week.

Note: We strongly encourage you to talk with your health care professional about your specific medical condition, including blood pressure changes, causes and treatments. The information contained in this website about blood pressure changes and other medical conditions is meant to be helpful and educational, but is not a substitute for medical advice.

Related Side Effects

High Blood Pressure has related side effects:

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