Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a chronic and potentially serious condition that occurs when the pressure inside the blood vessels exceeds the normal limit. As blood pumps through the veins, it exerts pressure on the walls of the arteries with every pump. When that pressure is too high, it can cause damage not only to the vessels but organs like the heart and kidneys as well. It can also increase your risk for serious events like stroke or heart attack. Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (MM Hg). Generally speaking, pressure over 120/80 mm Hg are considered high. However, athletes and older men and women can have slightly higher pressures and still be healthy.
Hypertension is diagnosed using a sphygmomanometer, which is the medical term for a blood pressure cuff. The cuff measures the pressure of the blood when the heart is beating (systolic) and when it's at rest between beats (diastolic). Because high blood pressure causes few or no symptoms before a serious event occurs, having regular checkups is the best way to determine if hypertension is present.
High blood pressure can sometimes be treated with lifestyle changes, like losing excess weight, being more physically active and eating a healthy, low-sodium diet. Sometimes, though, lifestyle changes are not enough and medication will be needed to help keep blood pressure under control.
The best way to manage blood pressure is to have regular physical exams to monitor blood pressure on a regular basis. If hypertension is serious, home monitoring can also be performed using a blood pressure cuff. Maintaining a healthy weight, eating a healthy, low-sodium diet and being more active (at least 30 minutes of exercise five days a week) are all important for promoting healthy blood pressure. Patients should make an appointment with Dr. Kasper at the Saddle River Medical Group for regular screening. When hypertension or high blood pressure is caught early, it is easier to address.
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