High Blood Pressure

Heart & Cardiac Screenings

Blood pressure measuring 120/80 or lower is optimal. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), high blood pressure, or hypertension, is defined as blood pressure repeatedly measured at 140/90 mmHg or above. In addition, high blood pressure (HBP) may be diagnosed when either the systolic (top) number or the bottom (diastolic) number is elevated. HBP can be classified as primary or secondary. Uncontrolled HBP can lead to cardiovascular disease, kidney damage, vision loss, erectile dysfunction and other health problems.

The AHA categorizes blood pressure readings as follows:

  • Normal – 120/80
  • Prehypertension – 120-139/80-89
  • HBP (Hypertension) Stage 1 – 140-159/90-99
  • HBP (Hypertension) Stage 2 – 160 or above/100 or above
  • Hypertensive Crisis (medical emergency) – 180 or above/110 or above

The systolic pressure indicates the pressure in your arteries as your heart contracts and pushes blood through your arteries. The diastolic pressure indicates the pressure in your arteries while your heart is resting between beats and refilling with blood. If your systolic (top) or diastolic (bottom) blood pressure readings are above normal, you may have HBP. Either number can indicate a problem; both numbers do not have to be abnormal. Your blood pressure will need to be checked several times, consistently indicating elevated levels each time, for an accurate diagnosis. Blood pressure is usually measured in both arms for comparison, as well.

Primary, or essential, hypertension has no identifiable known cause. However, a number of risk factors have been linked to this type of HBP. Age, genetics, dietary choices, nutritional deficiencies, obesity, insufficient physical activity and lifestyle are some risk factors associated with primary hypertension. Of course, age and genetics cannot be changed. Other influences can be modified to improve blood pressure measurements.

Secondary hypertension is caused by an identifiable underlying condition or influence. This type of HBP is usually caused by another pre-existing medical condition or medications. Kidney disease, adrenal gland tumors, narrowed arteries, structural heart abnormalities, hormonal imbalances, contraceptives and other medications are some of the direct influences that can cause secondary hypertension. Fortunately, correcting or eliminating the problem often restores the patient’s blood pressure to normal.
Hypertensive crisis can be divided into two subcategories: hypertensive urgency and hypertensive emergency. Hypertensive urgency is indicated when blood pressure measures higher than 180 systolic and/or higher than 110 diastolic. Hypertensive urgency requires emergency evaluation and pressure readjustment; however, there is no associated organ damage. Hypertensive emergency is indicated when blood pressure rises above 180 systolic and/or 120 diastolic. Call 911 immediately or have someone drive you the hospital right away. Stroke, heart attack, aortic dissection and organ damage are possible when blood pressure reaches this stage.

Monitoring and controlling blood pressure is vital to protecting your health. HBP is also called “the silent killer” because most people experience no symptoms until it is too late. Hypertension can affect anyone, adults and children. Effective treatment possibilities include prescription drugs, surgery, lifestyle changes, dietary modifications, supplements and alternative therapies. Dr. Alonso will work with you to find the best method of controlling your blood pressure and maintaining your cardiovascular health.