A great deal of confusion exists concerning the link between blood pressure and hypertension. Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure, a common and potentially serious condition. Blood pressure, on the other hand, is the force exerted on the arteries by the blood inside. With aging and by adopting unhealthy habits, diets and lifestyles, individuals can over time experience an increase in blood pressure, and hypertension might result.
Even without the pumping action of the heart, blood exerts pressure on the walls of the blood vessels, in the same way that tires are pressurized with air. Each beat of the heart causes a spike in blood pressure, which drops again when the heart is at rest. This is why blood pressure is measured by a pair of numbers: the pressure during a heartbeat is called the systolic pressure, and the pressure between heartbeats is called the diastolic pressure.
A sphygmomanometer is used to measure blood pressure and hypertension, if it is present. The ideal blood pressure is below 120/80. Blood pressure measurements between 120/80 and 139/89 are classified as pre-hypertension and indicate that preventative steps might need to be taken to prevent hypertension. Readings higher than 140/90 indicate high blood pressure, and hypertension treatments might be required.
In many cases, test anxiety can cause an increase in blood pressure, and hypertension might be indicated in healthy patients. This phenomenon is generally referred to as white coat hypertension. When readings are unexpectedly high, or when the patient seems nervous, medical professionals might take a second reading after the individual has had time to relax.
The numbers used for division into categories by blood pressure readings are merely guidelines. Doctors will also note changes in blood pressure, and hypertension prevention steps might be taken if readings begin creeping higher over time. These early steps are likely to involve adjustments to diet and an increase in regular exercise.
Weight loss, diet and exercise are often used to control blood pressure and hypertension. Reducing salt intake is especially helpful in controlling blood pressure and hypertension. Medication is often prescribed to treat hypertension as well. Cigarettes and alcohol will also increase blood pressure, and hypertension is more likely among smokers and drinkers. Quitting is recommended to those who have been diagnosed with high blood pressure.
Hypertension does not display any overt symptoms. The best method of diagnosis is through regular blood pressure checks. Left undiagnosed, hypertension puts the heart and circulatory system under stress, making life-threatening conditions such as stroke and heart attack more likely. Sufferers of high blood pressure might also experience atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries and an increased likelihood of damage to other organs, such as the kidneys.