Skip to content

Hypertension/High Blood Pressure Health Center

Select An Article

Diagnosing High Blood Pressure

Font Size

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is often called a "silent disease" because you usually don't know that you have it. There may be no symptoms or signs. Nonetheless, it damages the body and eventually may cause problems like heart disease.

Therefore, it's important to regularly monitor your blood pressure, especially if it has ever been high or above the "normal" range, or if you have a family history of hypertension. Because hypertension can cause heart disease, you may also need to be tested for heart disease.

Recommended Related to Hypertension

5 Lifestyle Tips to Lower High Blood Pressure

Want to know exactly how much certain lifestyle changes can affect your blood pressure? Here, a look at the numbers. The Change: Lose weight. The Payoff: You’ll lower your systolic blood pressure (the first number in your blood pressure results) by 5 to 20 points for every 20 pounds you lose. In fact, if you're overweight, losing as little as 10 pounds can help lower blood pressure. The weight loss goal is to get your body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9. The Change: Follow...

Read the 5 Lifestyle Tips to Lower High Blood Pressure article > >

Measuring Blood Pressure

You can get your blood pressure measured by a health care provider, at a pharmacy, or you can purchase a blood pressure monitor for your home.

Blood pressure is most often measured with a device known as a sphygmomanometer, which consists of a stethoscope, arm cuff, dial, pump, and valve.

Blood pressure is measured in two ways: systolic and diastolic.

  • Systolic blood pressure is the maximum pressure during a heartbeat.
  • Diastolic blood pressure is the lowest pressure between heartbeats.

Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and is written systolic over diastolic (for example, 120/80 mm Hg, or "120 over 80"). According to the most recent guidelines, a normal blood pressure is less than 120/80 mm Hg. Hypertension is blood pressure that is greater than 140/90. For people over age 60, high blood pressure is defined as 150/90 or greater. Prehypertension consists of blood pressure that is 120 to 139/80 to 89.

Blood pressure may increase or decrease, depending on your age, heart condition, emotions, activity, and the medications you take. One high reading does not mean you have high blood pressure. It is necessary to measure your blood pressure at different times, while you are resting comfortably for at least five minutes. To make the diagnosis of hypertension, at least three readings that are elevated are usually required.

In addition to measuring your blood pressure, your doctor will ask about your medical history (whether you've had heart problems before), assess your risk factors (whether you smoke, have high cholesterol, diabetes, etc.), and talk about your family history (whether any members of your family have had high blood pressure or heart disease).

Next Article:

Today on WebMD

blood pressure
Symptoms, causes, and more.
headache
Learn the causes.
 
Compressed heart
5 habits to change.
Mature man floating in pool, goggles on head
Exercises that help.
 
heart healthy living
ARTICLE
Erectile Dysfunction Slideshow
SLIDESHOW
 
Bernstein Hypertension Affects Cardiac Risk
VIDEO
Compressed heart
Article
 
Heart Disease Overview Slideshow
SLIDESHOW
thumbnail for lowering choloesterol slideshow
SLIDESHOW
 
Heart Foods Slideshow
SLIDESHOW
Low Blood Pressure
VIDEO
 

WebMD Special Sections