When you get a high blood pressure reading at the doctor's office, it might be tough for you to understand exactly what impact those numbers can make on your overall health, since high blood pressure has no unusual day-to-day symptoms. But the truth is, having high blood pressure is a serious health risk—it boosts the risks of leading killers such as heart attack and stroke, as well as aneurysms, cognitive decline, and kidney failure. What's more, high blood pressure is a primary or contributing cause of death in more than 1,000 deaths a day in the United States. 

For most people, the first-choice medication for high blood pressure is a thiazide diuretic. For other people, a diuretic alone is not enough to control blood pressure. In these cases, a diuretic may be combined with a beta-blocker, ACE inhibitor, angiotensin II receptor blocker, or calcium channel blocker. Adding a second medication may lower your blood pressure more quickly than using a diuretic alone. Also, it allows you to take less of each medication, which may reduce side effects.


Blood tests may be done to assess risk factors for heart disease and stroke as well as looking for complications of hypertension. These include complete blood count (CBC), electrolytes, BUN (blood urea nitrogen), and creatinine and GFR (glomerular filtration rate) to measure kidney function. A fasting lipid profile will measure cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the blood. If appropriate, blood tests may be considered to look for an underlying cause of high blood pressure (secondary hypertension)including abnormal thyroid or adrenal gland function.

“Stopping the blood pressure medication immediately can cause your blood pressure to increase. When your blood pressure increases, it can put a lot of strain on a lot of different organs,” said Anant Mandawat, a cardiac oncologist at Emory Healthcare. The American Heart Association concurs. A statement on its website warns ““DO NOT stop taking your medicine without contacting your doctor.”

While a rising heart rate will increase blood flow through the body, it does not necessarily correspond with an increase in the pressure of that blood flow. This is because blood vessels can increase in size (dilate) to facilitate larger quantities of blood. Even if your heart rate were to double, your normal blood pressure & high pulse may only slightly increase blood pressure.
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Pregnant women with very high blood pressure (hypertension) can reduce their blood pressure with antihypertensive drugs, but the most effective antihypertensive drug during pregnancy is unknown. The aim of antihypertensive therapy is to lower blood pressure quickly but safely for both the mother and her baby, avoiding sudden drops in blood pressure that can cause dizziness or fetal distress.
For older people, often the first number (systolic) is 130 or higher, but the second number (diastolic) is less than 80. This problem is called isolated systolic hypertension, which is due to age-related stiffening of the major arteries. It is the most common form of high blood pressure in older people and can lead to serious health problems (stroke, heart disease, eye problems, and kidney failure) in addition to shortness of breath during light physical activity, lightheadedness upon standing too fast, and falls. Isolated systolic hypertension is treated in the same way as regular high blood pressure (130 or higher for the first number, or 80 or higher for the second number) but may require more than one type of blood pressure medication. If your doctor determines that your systolic pressure is above a normal level for your age, ask how you can lower it.
Melissa is a Quality Assurance Nurse, professor, writer, and business owner. She enjoys empowering older adults to live their best life through daily self-care activities. Melissa is owner of www.makingspace.company, a website dedicated to helping women find their creative passions through writing and co-owner of enursingresources.com, a start-up Nursing CE company that will offer online courses soon.
You and your doctor should set a goal for getting closer to 140/90 mmHg. To start the conversation, bring this health tracker for diabetes to your next visit. A lot of what you'll do to lower blood pressure is the same as the "Six tips to help lower blood pressure" above. Have your blood pressure checked at each doctor's visit. Take medicine as prescribed. Eliminate tobacco. Exercise. Eat well.
Be proactive and follow all medical advice received about how to manage hypertension. It is crucial to continue on any prescriptions given to treat hypertension. It is very dangerous to stop taking a medication for hypertension just because the symptoms seem to have lessened. Have frequent medical checkups and stay in touch with the doctor if any new symptoms arise.
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