High Blood Pressure: Five Answers You Need to Know

by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN Health Professional

High blood pressure is a serious condition that requires treatment. Here are answers to five frequently asked questions you need to know.

What is high blood pressure?

Blood pressure measures the force pushing against your artery walls when your heart beats and when it rests. The systolic pressure (top number) measures the pressure against your artery walls when your heart beats (contracts) and pushes blood throughout circulation. The diastolic pressure (bottom number) is the pressure against your artery walls when your heart relaxes (in between beats). High blood pressure is diagnosed when the pressure against artery walls is higher than normal. Another term for high blood pressure is hypertension.

The Joint National Committee defines four blood pressure categories.

Very High Range - Stage 2 Hypertension
Systolic (top) blood pressure 160 mm Hg or high
Diastolic (bottom) blood pressure 100 mm Hg or higher
If in this range you have hypertension (high blood pressure).

High Range - Stage 1 Hypertension
Systolic (top) blood pressure 140 - 159 mm Hg
Diastolic (bottom) blood pressure 90 - 99 mm Hg
If in this range you have hypertension (high blood pressure).

Caution Range - Prehypertension
Systolic (top) blood pressure 120 - 139 mm Hg
Diastolic (bottom) blood pressure 80 - 89 mm Hg
Take action

Normal Range - Normal
Systolic (top) blood pressure below 120 mm Hg
Diastolic (bottom) blood pressure below 80 mm Hg

Usually high blood pressure is diagnosed after more than one elevated blood pressure reading.

Why is high blood pressure dangerous?

Arteries are made of muscle and tissues that allow them to be elastic and stretch. As blood pressure rises arteries are required to expand further to accommodate blood flow. High blood pressure leads to many health complications, including damage to blood vessels, the heart, and kidneys.

What causes high blood pressure?

The cause of high blood pressure varies between individuals. In most cases the cause is unknown. This is true for 90-95% of individuals with high blood pressure. High blood pressure can affect anyone, regardless of age, sex, or ethnicity. Your risk for developing high blood pressure does increase as you age. Lifestyle factors impact your high blood pressure risk, such as being physical active and eating a heart healthy diet.

What are symptoms of high blood pressure?

Most individuals diagnosed with high blood pressure experience no symptoms. Symptoms, such as headaches, dizziness, and/or nosebleeds do not usually occur until high blood pressure has reached advanced stages. The only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure checked.

What do I need to do to lower high blood pressure?

Appropriate treatment depends on your high blood pressure reading and your medical history. Work with your physician to outline a treatment plan. Your plan may include a combination of blood pressure medication, diet, and lifestyle changes. If medication is prescribed you will increase the effectiveness of the medication by following a heart healthy diet.

Be sure to sign-up for the e-course 7 Natural Ways to Lower Blood Pressure.

Lisa Nelson, RD, LN
Meet Our Writer
Lisa Nelson, RD, LN

Lisa Nelson RD, a registered dietitian since 1999, provides step-by-step guidance to lower cholesterol and lower blood pressure, so you can live life and enjoy your family for years to come. Lisa's passion for health comes from her own family history of heart disease, so she doesn't dispense trendy treatments; Lisa practices what she teaches in her own daily life. Because her own health is the foundation of her expertise, you can trust that Lisa will make it truly possible for you to see dramatic changes in your health, without unrealistic fads or impossibly difficult techniques.