Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of arteries. When the doctor measures your blood pressure, the results are given in two numbers. The first number, called systolic blood pressure, is the pressure caused by your heart contracting and pushing out blood. The second number, called diastolic blood pressure, is the pressure when your heart relaxes and fills with blood. Your blood pressure reading is usually given as the systolic blood pressure number over the diastolic blood pressure number, such as 138/72. Normal blood pressure for adults is defined as a systolic pressure of less than 120 and a diastolic pressure of less than 80. This is stated as 120/80.
All of these steps and techniques are things you should ask your doctor about as part of your personalized health plan. Preventative care from an experienced physician is the best way to fend off many health problems, and hypertension is no exception. Find a skilled St. Joseph Health primary care physician or heart specialist using our online provider directory. Download our health numbers report card to help you track your blood pressure and other common markers that measure heart health.
Do not attempt to lower extremely elevated blood pressure in yourself or someone else. While the goal is to reduce blood pressure before additional complications develop, blood pressure should be reduced over the course of hours to days, depending on severity. It is important not to lower blood pressure too quickly, because rapid blood pressure reductions can cut off the supply of blood to the brain, leading to brain damage or death.
The sympathetic nervous system is stimulated by exercise, stress, anxiety, pain, anger, and fear, which increases blood pressure. Blood pressure returns to baseline within five minutes of rest following activity. Try it out. Have a peer take your blood pressure. Then, run on the spot or do some other cardiac activity for five minutes. Have the peer take your blood pressure again, and then lie down and rest for five minutes. Take the blood pressure again. Note the changes.

What makes this study valuable is that it documents real world experience. Guidelines are frequently made from trials conducted with more aggressive follow-up and monitoring than is typical in usual care. That fuels the medical community’s perspective that drug interventions are the best course of care, which is why we need more studies like this one from Dr. Sheppard et. al. showing us how low risk patients probably do not benefit from drug therapy in real world scenarios.
Arthritis is not a specific disease, but a group of disorders affecting the joints, and it is characterized by inflammation, swelling, stiffness, and decreased mobility. These arthritis symptoms come and go, but will progress and worsen with time. Arthritis is more common among seniors and is the leading cause of disability in the geriatric population.
Blood spots in the eyes : Blood spots in the eyes (subconjunctival hemorrhage) are more common in people with diabetes or high blood pressure, but neither condition causes the blood spots. Floaters in the eyes are also not related to high blood pressure. However, an eye doctor (ophthalmologist) may be able to detect damage to the optic nerve caused by untreated high blood pressure.   
Dietary changes: The health care provider might recommend a diet that includes more vegetables (especially leafy green vegetables), fruits, low-fat dairy products, and fiber-rich foods, and fewer carbohydrates, fats, processed foods, and sugary drinks. He or she also might recommend preparing low-sodium dishes and not adding salt to foods. Watch out for foods with lots of hidden salt (like bread, sandwiches, pizza, and many restaurant and fast-food options).
Exercise stress test: More commonly used for patients with borderline hypertension. This usually involves pedaling a stationary bicycle or walking on a treadmill. The stress test assesses how the body's cardiovascular system responds to increased physical activity. If the patient has hypertension this data is important to know before the exercise test starts. The test monitors the electrical activity of the heart, as well as the patient's blood pressure during exercise. An exercise stress test sometimes reveals problems that are not apparent when the body is resting. Imaging scans of the heart's blood supply might be done at the same time.
Many blood pressure medications, known as antihypertensives, are available by prescription to lower high blood pressure (HBP or hypertension). There are a variety of classes of high blood pressure medications and they include a number of different drugs. In the widget below, you will find an overview of the classes of blood pressure medication. To expand the information on a type of medication, simply click on the subject tab.
Eat potassium- and magnesium-rich foods. Potassium can help regulate your heart rate and can reduce the effect that sodium has on your blood pressure. Foods like bananas, melons, oranges, apricots, avocados, dairy, leafy green vegetables, tomatoes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tuna, salmon, beans, nuts, and seeds have lots of potassium.  Magnesium is thought to help blood vessels relax, making it easier for blood to pass through. Foods rich in magnesium include vegetables, dairy, chicken, legumes, and whole grains. It’s better to get vitamins and minerals from food, and a heart-healthy diet like the one we described above is a good way to ensure you get plenty of nutrients. However, you may want to talk to your doctor about whether taking certain supplements might help your blood pressure.
Arthritis is not a specific disease, but a group of disorders affecting the joints, and it is characterized by inflammation, swelling, stiffness, and decreased mobility. These arthritis symptoms come and go, but will progress and worsen with time. Arthritis is more common among seniors and is the leading cause of disability in the geriatric population.
The best evidence indicates that high blood pressure does not cause headaches or nosebleeds, except in the case of hypertensive crisis, a medical emergency when blood pressure is 180/120 mm Hg or higher. If your blood pressure is unusually high AND you have headache or nosebleed and are feeling unwell, wait five minutes and retest. If your reading remains at 180/120 mm Hg or higher, call 9-1-1.  
Some heart attacks are sudden and intense, however most heart attacks start slowly with mild pain and discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain. Shortness of breath may occur, as well as nausea, or lightheadedness. It is vital to get help immediately if any of these symptoms occur.

Unfortunately, this seems like a common scenario — medical guidelines recommend more aggressive medication use for minimal potential benefit despite potential harm. A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), suggests the blood pressure guidelines go too far for low risk individuals, and the risk of harm outweighs the potential benefits.
If an underlying medical condition causes hypertension, you’ll need to treat this condition to maintain a healthy blood pressure. For example, people with sleep apnea tend to develop high blood pressure. Treatment of sleep apnea with a CPAP machine can help to lower your high blood pressure due to sleep apnea. Another example is high blood pressure associated with obesity that improves after weight loss.

Determining the normal blood pressure range in children is a little complicated, and it all depends on the size and age of the child. One rule of thumb that doctors use to determine BP troubles in children is that, a child is considered to be suffering from Prehypertension. If he/she has a blood pressure higher than that of 90% of the children of the same age and size. The child is said to have hypertension if he/she has a blood pressure higher than that of 95% of the children of the same age and size.
Some heart attacks are sudden and intense, however most heart attacks start slowly with mild pain and discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain. Shortness of breath may occur, as well as nausea, or lightheadedness. It is vital to get help immediately if any of these symptoms occur.
As you get older, high blood pressure, especially isolated systolic hypertension, is more common and can increase your risk of serious health problems. Treatment, especially if you have other medical conditions, requires ongoing evaluation and discussions with your doctor to strike the best balance of reducing risks and maintaining a good quality of life.
This headache isn't the kind that you pop some over-the-counter meds and it goes away. If you're getting severe headaches with no prior history of migraines, high blood pressure may be to blame. Extremely high blood pressure, known as malignant hypertension, puts pressure in the cranium (the part of the skull that encloses the brain). As blood pressure rises, pain builds in the cranium. That causes severe headaches.

A recent study compared diuretics with other types of blood pressure-lowering medications and found the diuretics were just as effective as the newer drugs in preventing heart attack or death due to heart disease. The new guidelines say these inexpensive drugs should be used as first-line treatment for most people who have high blood pressure without other risk factors such as heart failure, history of heart attack, diabetes, or kidney disease.


According to the CDC, a whopping 75 million Americans—that’s nearly 1/3 of the adult population—are struggling with high blood pressure, increasing their risk of heart attack, stroke, and other life-altering health consequences along the way. Skipping the salt and squeezing in some regular workouts can help keep your blood pressure from reaching dangerous levels, but it takes a more proactive approach to keep your blood pressure under control in the long run.


These drugs block the effects of angiotensin, a chemical that causes the arteries to become narrow. Angiotensin needs a receptor- like a chemical "slot" to fit into or bind with- in order to constrict the blood vessel. ARBs block the receptors so the angiotensin fails to constrict the blood vessel. This means blood vessels stay open and blood pressure is reduced.
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of arteries. When the doctor measures your blood pressure, the results are given in two numbers. The first number, called systolic blood pressure, is the pressure caused by your heart contracting and pushing out blood. The second number, called diastolic blood pressure, is the pressure when your heart relaxes and fills with blood. Your blood pressure reading is usually given as the systolic blood pressure number over the diastolic blood pressure number, such as 138/72. Normal blood pressure for adults is defined as a systolic pressure of less than 120 and a diastolic pressure of less than 80. This is stated as 120/80.
You may be directed to seek medical care if blood pressure readings are elevated if done as part of a community health screening. Isolated elevated blood pressure readings do not necessarily make the diagnosis of hypertension. Blood pressure readings vary throughout the day, and your primary care provider may record a different reading than the one that was measured in a screening that sent you in for care.
Reduce processed sugar and refined carbohydrates. Many studies have shown a link between high blood pressure and processed sugar. Even moderate amounts of sugar can raise blood pressure. For example, during the Framingham Women’s Health Study, women who drank as little as one soda per day had higher blood pressure than women who drank less. It’s not just sweet sugar that raises blood pressure. Refined carbohydrates, like white bread and pasta, covert to sugar quickly when they’re eaten, and they may also cause blood pressure to rise. There is evidence that reducing refined sugar intake can lower blood pressure and improve heart health.

Don’t get too excited. Turns out that dark chocolate (at least 50% to 70% cocoa) can give you a boost of a plant compound called flavanol. As with garlic, this antioxidant can raise your nitric oxide levels and widen blood vessels. That can make your blood pressure drop a notch. It goes without saying that a little bit of chocolate is all you need.
Dietary changes: The health care provider might recommend a diet that includes more vegetables (especially leafy green vegetables), fruits, low-fat dairy products, and fiber-rich foods, and fewer carbohydrates, fats, processed foods, and sugary drinks. He or she also might recommend preparing low-sodium dishes and not adding salt to foods. Watch out for foods with lots of hidden salt (like bread, sandwiches, pizza, and many restaurant and fast-food options).

Hypertension causes complications such as heart attack and stroke, and these complications are less likely to occur in women who have undergone menopause than men of the same age. When comparing the complication risks of hypertension between men and women aged between 40 and 70 years, it is seen that men are at a higher risk of developing complications than women.


Fish are a great source of lean protein. Fatty fish like mackerel and salmon are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation, and lower triglycerides. In addition to these fish sources, trout contains vitamin D. Foods rarely contain vitamin D, and this hormone-like vitamin has properties that can lower blood pressure.

Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
These drugs block the effects of angiotensin, a chemical that causes the arteries to become narrow. Angiotensin needs a receptor- like a chemical "slot" to fit into or bind with- in order to constrict the blood vessel. ARBs block the receptors so the angiotensin fails to constrict the blood vessel. This means blood vessels stay open and blood pressure is reduced.

These drugs block the effects of angiotensin, a chemical that causes the arteries to become narrow. Angiotensin needs a receptor- like a chemical "slot" to fit into or bind with- in order to constrict the blood vessel. ARBs block the receptors so the angiotensin fails to constrict the blood vessel. This means blood vessels stay open and blood pressure is reduced.
It's time to heed your partner's complaints and get that snoring checked out. Loud, incessant snores are a symptom of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a disorder characterized by brief yet potentially life-threatening interruptions in breathing during sleep. And many sleep apnea sufferers also have high levels of aldosterone, a hormone that can boost blood pressure, according to University of Alabama researchers. In fact, it's estimated that sleep apnea affects half of people with high blood pressure.
Many of us have had our blood pressure measured at the doctor but don’t really understand why it’s important. Find out why (and how) your doctor measures your blood pressure, what’s normal and what’s not, and what to do if you have high blood pressure.How is blood pressure measured?Blood pressure is measured using an instrument called a sphygmomanometer. It consists of an inflatable cuff, an inflating bulb, and a gauge to show the blood pressure.The cuff is wrapped around the upper arm, and inflated to a pressure which temporarily stops the blood from flowing through the brachial artery – the main blood vessel in your arm. At this point, the doctor will not be able to feel a pulse in the arm. The cuff pressure is then raised slightly above this point, and then slowly lowered.As the pressure is lowered, your doctor will listen through a stethoscope for the sound of blood starting to pulse through the brachial artery again. The pressure reading on the sphygmomanometer when the sound of blood is first heard pulsing through the artery is known as the systolic pressure. As the doctor continues to lower the pressure in the cuff, the sounds will disappear. Usually, the point at which the sounds disappear is known as the diastolic pressure.The systolic reading (the first number of the 2) indicates the pressure of blood within your arteries during a contraction of the left ventricle of the heart. The diastolic reading (the second number) indicates the pressure within the arteries when the heart is at rest. Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg), for example 120/80 mmHg (known as 120 over 80).What is normal blood pressure?According to the Heart Foundation of Australia, as a general guide:blood pressure below 120/80 mmHg can be classified as 'optimal';blood pressure between 120/80 and 129/84 mmHg is 'normal'; andblood pressure between 130/85 and 139/89 mmHg is classified as 'high-normal'.A person is defined by the Heart Foundation as having high blood pressure (hypertension) if they:have a systolic pressure greater than or equal to 140 mmHg; and/ora diastolic pressure greater than or equal to 90 mmHg.High blood pressure is further classified as mild, moderate or severe as the pressure increases above this level.Low blood pressure, or hypotension, is not as easy to define as it is usually relative to a person’s normal blood pressure reading, and varies between different people. It generally refers to a blood pressure below an average of about 90/60 mmHg.Getting an accurate readingAccording to the Heart Foundation, the diagnosis of high blood pressure should be based on multiple blood pressure measurements taken on separate occasions.It is recommended that you do not smoke or drink caffeine-containing drinks for 2 hours before having your blood pressure monitored, as this can cause an increase in your readings.Self-monitoring of blood pressure in your own environment (home blood pressure monitoring) or ambulatory monitoring of blood pressure is also used to help diagnose high blood pressure.For ambulatory blood pressure monitoring, you wear a portable automatic blood pressure machine for 24 hours while going about your usual daily routine. The portable monitor will measure your blood pressure multiple times during the 24 hours. Your doctor will ask you to record your activities over the 24 hours, plus any symptoms you experience (and when they occur). Variations in blood pressure are normal and may occur depending on where and when the blood pressure is taken.Some people who have raised blood pressure readings taken at the doctor’s surgery actually have acceptable levels outside the surgery, when under normal stress levels. This is known as ‘white-coat’ hypertension.There are also people with ‘reverse white-coat’ hypertension (also known as masked hypertension), who have normal blood pressure when measured in the clinic but high ambulatory blood pressure readings (those recorded during normal daily activities).Keeping on targetYour target blood pressure may vary according to whether you have other conditions that can increase your risk of cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) disease or conditions that have been caused by high blood pressure.Raised blood pressure is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and the higher your blood pressure, the greater your chance of having heart disease or stroke. For this reason it is important that you have your blood pressure monitored regularly, and that you always take any high blood pressure treatments that have been recommended, including medicines that have been prescribed.Hypertension can also be controlled to a large extent by lifestyle measures such as:losing excess weight;undertaking regular physical activity;quitting smoking; andchanging your diet (reducing your alcohol and salt intake, and following a healthy eating plan).These steps can help to lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Last Reviewed: 8 February 2017
“The heart works to pump oxygen in the blood to all your tissues and organs,” explains Lara Kovell, M.D., a cardiologist at UMass Memorial Medical Center. “Blood pressure is a measure of the force of blood pushing against the blood vessels, or arteries, of the body. If you were able to hold on to one of your arteries, the blood pressure is the force you would feel on your hand.”
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