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Hypertension/High Blood Pressure Health Center

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Prehypertension - Topic Overview

What is prehypertension?

Prehypertension is blood pressure that is higher than normal but not high enough to be high blood pressure. It is a warning that your blood pressure is going up.

Blood pressure is a measure of how hard your blood pushes against the walls of your arteries. Blood pressure that is too high (also called hypertension) harms your blood vessels. This raises your risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, and other health problems.

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Blood pressure is shown as two numbers, such as 120/80 (say "120 over 80"). The top number is the pressure when the heart pumps blood. It is called the systolic pressure. The bottom number is the pressure when the heart relaxes and fills with blood. It is called the diastolic pressure. An ideal blood pressure for an adult is less than 120/80. High blood pressure is 140/90 or higher. Prehypertension is between 120/80 and 140/90.

What makes blood pressure go up?

Experts don't know the exact cause of high blood pressure. But they agree that some things can make blood pressure go up. They include not getting enough exercise and being overweight. Eating foods that have too much sodium (salt) and drinking too much alcohol also can raise blood pressure.

What are the symptoms?

Blood pressure that is higher than normal does not cause symptoms. Most people feel fine. They find out they have higher-than-normal blood pressure during a routine exam or a doctor visit for another problem.

How is prehypertension diagnosed?

A simple test with a blood pressure cuff camera.gif is all you need to find out your blood pressure. The doctor or nurse puts the cuff around your arm and pumps air into the cuff. The cuff squeezes your arm. The doctor or nurse takes your blood pressure while letting the air out of the cuff.

Your blood pressure may be measured at two or more separate times to make sure that it is higher than normal. This is because blood pressure goes up and down throughout the day. Also, some people have higher blood pressure when they are in a doctor's office, but they have normal blood pressure at other times. This is called white-coat hypertension. If you think you may have this, talk to your doctor about checking your blood pressure more often to see if you really have high blood pressure.

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