High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) FAQs
Reviewed by John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP on January 4, 2016
Test your Knowledge!
- High blood pressure means that blood has difficulty reaching the heart. True or false?
- What is the definition of blood pressure?
- What happens in the body when blood pressure is high?
- What does a blood pressure reading determine?
- Your blood pressure is 120/80: Which number indicates systolic pressure?
- Hypertension is commonly called the silent killer. True or false?
- High blood pressure can usually be cured. True or false?
- What is a normal blood pressure reading?
- Hypertension is a common cause for erectile dysfunction (ED) in men. True or false?
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Q:High blood pressure means that blood has difficulty reaching the heart. True or false?
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a disease that occurs when the blood flows through the arteries at a higher than normal pressure.
Q:What is the definition of blood pressure?
A: Blood pressure refers to the force of blood pushing against the artery walls.
High blood pressure causes the heart to have to work harder than usual, and unchecked, it can lead to heart attack or stroke.
Q:What happens in the body when blood pressure is high?
A:When blood pressure is high, the walls of the arteries are stretched beyond their limit, leading to damage and often scarring.
Arteries are blood vessels that carry blood from the heart to the rest of the body. Healthy arteries are flexible and can stretch as blood pumps through them.
Q:What does a blood pressure reading determine?
A:Blood pressure measurements measure the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats and in between beats.
These measurements can tell if your blood pressure is normal, high, or low. Blood pressure is expressed in two numbers, the systolic blood pressure (the firs/top number), which measures the pressure in the blood vessels when your heart beats. The diastolic blood pressure (the second/bottom number), measures the pressure in the blood vessels when the heart is at rest between beats. Normal blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg or lower. High blood pressure (hypertension) is 140/90 mmHg or more. Levels between 120/80 and 140/90 are considered prehypertension and mean a person is at high risk for developing high blood pressure.
Q:Your blood pressure is 120/80: Which number indicates systolic pressure?
A:120. As explained previously, the systolic blood pressure is the top number in a blood pressure reading. Thus, if your blood pressure is measured as 120/80, your systolic pressure (the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats) is 120. Verbally, your doctor may say your blood pressure is "120 over 80." While both the systolic (top) and diastolic (bottom) numbers are important, the systolic measurement is usually given more attention because a high systolic reading can indicate a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, especially in people over age 50.
Q:Hypertension is commonly called the silent killer. True or false?
High blood pressure often has no symptoms and many people are unaware they have it, which is why it is sometimes referred to as the "silent killer." The only way to know for sure if you have high blood pressure is to get it checked by your doctor or other health care professional. Blood pressure is measured quickly and painlessly using a sphygmomanometer, which is a cuff that goes around the arm.
Q:High blood pressure can usually be cured. True or false?
There is no cure for most cases high blood pressure, but it can be effectively managed by changes in diet and lifestyle, and in some cases, medications. Lifestyle changes include a healthy diet with lower salt intake, regular physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, managing stress, not smoking, limiting alcohol intake, and taking prescription medications as directed.
Q:What is a normal blood pressure reading?
A:A normal blood pressure is defined as 120/80 mmHg or less.
Other important blood pressure ranges to know are:
- Prehypertension: 121-139/80-89
- Stage 1 hypertension: 140-159/90-99
- Stage 2 hypertension: >160/>100
Exercise, sleep, posture, and stress can all affect blood pressure readings, so if your blood pressure reading is high your doctor may take several readings over time to help confirm a diagnosis.
Q:Hypertension is a common cause for erectile dysfunction (ED) in men. True or false?
Hypertension is a common cause for erectile dysfunction (ED) in men. When you have vascular disease such as hypertension, you have it all over your body and it can affect all bodily functions including erections. Adequate blood flow is needed to get and maintain an erection and any problems with blood flow can result in ED. This is why it's important men seek treatment for ED – it may be due to underlying medical conditions such as hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis) or diabetes. Early detection of these diseases allows patients to receive treatment right away and possibly prevent complications.
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