Baton Rouge Clinic Health Library
Hypertension or High Blood Pressure
Published: 12, 2006
Hypertension (HTN) is the technical term for high blood pressure. HTN is called the “silent killer” due to the frequent lack of symptoms early in the course. Uncontrolled HTN is associated with heart and kidney disease along with stroke as common severe complications. About 65 million people in the United States have HTN which is nearly one in every three adults. In adults with HTN, 30% are unaware they have it, only 60% are receiving treatment, and about 30% have it controlled.
What do the numbers mean?
The top number (systolic pressure) is the blood vessel pressure when the heart muscle contracts. The bottom number (diastolic pressure is the blood vessel pressure when the heart muscle relaxes. Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80. Prehypertension is 120-139 / 80-89. Lifestyle modifications are commonly recommended at this stage. Stage 1 HTN is 140-159 / 90-99. Anti-hypertensive drugs are usually introduced at this stage. Stage 2 HTN is greater than or equal to 160/100. This severe stage of HTN is commonly treated with multiple medications.
Who is at risk of developing hypertension?
Certain races such as African-Americans and Native-Americans are at higher risk. Overweight children and adults are also at higher risk. HTN is seen very commonly with 65% of adults being overweight or obese and 15% of children being overweight or obese. Having a family history of HTN, lack of exercise, and smoking can also increase your risk of HTN. Only 24% of us exercise vigorously at least three times per week and 22% of adults are smokers. In addition to lack of exercise and smoking, consuming too much alcohol or a high sodium diet with fast food or processed food can increase a person’s risk of developing HTN.
What can be done to treat Htn?
Maintaining a proper weight is very important in helping to manage HTN. An appropriate diet with regular exercise can help to maintain an ideal weight. Low sodium and low fat food choices should be utilized. At least half an hour of exercise four or more days of the week can help with blood pressure management.
Avoiding smoking is very important as tobacco can increase heart rate and can harden and constrict blood vessels which increases blood pressure. Alcohol should be kept at two drinks a day or less and one or fewer for women. Decreasing stress with methods such as yoga and meditation can help with blood pressure management. Most importantly, patients need to have regular visits with their doctor for blood pressure measurements. Drugs are commonly needed to help get blood pressure to goal.
Will I have to take pills for the rest of my life?
The answer is yes for most people. A few people are lucky enough to manage their blood pressure without drugs. Most people need to continue lifestyle modifications and take several drugs to keep HTN controlled. Medications can sometimes be difficult to take due to side effects, cost, or just remembering to take their pills daily. Although this may be difficult, we must remember the potential devastating effects of uncontrolled HTN.
Hypertension is a very prevalent illness that needs to be diagnosed early and managed properly to avoid serious complications. Patients have to accept that like diabetes, this disease is one that will never really go away. However, as blood pressure comes down the body should begin to heal to a certain extent. If we are diligent in our detection and management, we can buy ourselves many more healthy years.
Adrian P. Landry, MD
Specializing in Internal Medicine
[ View Author Bio ]
The Baton Rouge Clinic, AMC, offers this information as a courtesy service. Please remember that medical knowledge is always evolving and we cannot represent that any of our information is absolutely current. Please consult a physician before taking any medical action based on information gathered from this or any website.