- Normal blood pressure: Less than 120/80 mmHg
- Prehypertension: 120-139/80-89 mmHg
- Stage I hypertension: 140-159/90-99 mmHg
- Stage II hypertension: 160/100 mmHg or higher
High blood pressure or hypertension is a condition in which there is an increase in the pressure exerted on the wall of the blood vessels, causing damage and thickening. It is often called the iceberg disease or silent killer, as it may not cause signs or symptoms until significant damage has already been done.
Hypertension cannot be cured completely but can be managed to a great extent with lifestyle changes and medications (if needed), which can drastically improve patient outcomes.
How is blood pressure measured?
Blood pressure readings can be done with a sphygmomanometer:
- Manual sphygmomanometer: A cuff is tied to the arm and inflated. The fall of mercury in the device is observed manually using a stethoscope.
- Digital sphygmomanometer: The machine digitally provides a blood pressure reading within a minute.
A blood pressure reading is given in two parts:
- Systolic pressure: This is the pressure exerted by the blood on the walls of the arteries when the heart contracts (systole).
- Diastolic pressure: This is the pressure exerted by the blood on the walls of the arteries when the heart relaxes (diastole).
So in a blood pressure reading of 120/80 mmHg, 120 is systolic and 80 is diastolic pressure.
What are potential complications of hypertension?
Complications of hypertension include:
- Heart failure: Increased strain on the heart as it tries to pump blood into the system can lead to heart failure.
- Aneurysm: Damage to the blood vessels due to increased pressure can result in formation of a protrusion called an aneurysm. If ruptured, it can be fatal.
- Stroke: Thickened blood vessels can cause a decreased blood supply to the brain. Strokes occur when blood vessels in the brain rupture due to persistently high blood pressure.
- Kidney failure: Decreased blood supply to the kidney tissues can cause damage to the kidneys and eventually lead to kidney failure.
- Dementia: Hypoxic damage (due to reduced oxygen supply) to the brain tissue can lead to memory loss and brain damage.
What are treatment options for hypertension?
However, very high blood pressure may require medications such as:
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Alexander MR. Hypertension. Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/241381-overview
Basile J, Bloch MJ. Overview of hypertension in adults. UpToDate. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/overview-of-hypertension-in-adults