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High Blood Pressure - Topic Overview

How is high blood pressure diagnosed?

Most people find out that they have high blood pressure during a routine doctor visit. For your doctor to confirm that you have high blood pressure, your blood pressure must be at least 140/90 on two separate occasions. It is usually measured 1 to 4 weeks apart.

You may have to check your blood pressure at home if there is reason to think the readings in the doctor's office aren't accurate. You may have what is called white-coat hypertension, which is blood pressure that goes up just because you're at the doctor's office.

How is it treated?

If you have high blood pressure, your doctor will give you a blood pressure goal. Your goal will be based on your health and your age. An example of a goal is to keep your blood pressure below 140/90.

You can help lower your blood pressure by making healthy changes in your lifestyle. If those lifestyle changes don't work well enough, you may also need to take pills. Either way, you will need to control your high blood pressure throughout your life.

Treatment depends on how high your blood pressure is, whether you have other health problems such as diabetes, and whether any organs have already been damaged. Your doctor may also check your risk for other problems, such as heart attack and stroke.

Most people take more than one pill for high blood pressure. Work with your doctor to find the right pill or combination of pills that will cause the fewest side effects.

What can you do to prevent high blood pressure?

Making lifestyle changes can help you to prevent high blood pressure. You can:

  • Stay at a healthy weight or lose extra weight.
  • Eat heart-healthy foods and limit sodium.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Limit alcohol to 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women.

This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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