What to know about high blood pressure
What is blood pressure?
Blood pressure measures the force of blood flowing through your blood vessels and pushing against your arteries and blood vessel walls.1
Blood flow is important. Your body needs blood and oxygen to feed your organs and keep them living their best lives. Your organs receive fresh blood when your heart contracts and expands—your heartbeat. Your heartbeat pushes the blood through your arteries and blood vessels. This heartbeat and blood flow creates 2 forces. The first—systolic pressure (top number)—is the force when the blood pumps out of the heart. The second—diastolic pressure (bottom number)—is the force when your heart rests between beats.2
High blood pressure
These 2 forces are measured during blood pressure readings at your doctor’s office. When you get your blood pressure reading, you may be told that it’s “120 over 80.” Any readings under or over that may be considered low or high blood pressure. If you’re over this number, you’re already getting into the high blood pressure range.
Here is a chart referencing blood pressure readings of the 2 forces:3
If blood pressure is consistently high, it’s considered hypertension. Hypertension is also known as a “silent killer,” because it often occurs without noticeable symptoms.4
Left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to:5
- Heart attack
- Heart failure or disease
- Kidney disease
- Vision loss
- Sexual dysfunction
It is recommended that you know your blood pressure numbers and continue a healthy lifestyle to control what you can, instead of waiting for a sign from your body.6
You can talk to your doctor about lifestyle factors and medicine that could help lower it.7
- A well-balanced diet
- Limited alcohol consumption
- Limited salt intake
- Stress management
- A healthy weight
- No smoking
- Taking medicine as prescribed
- Working closely with your doctor
There are medicines you can talk to your doctor about as an option to treat high blood pressure. Your doctor will prescribe the one that’s best for you based on your overall health. Here are the different classes of high blood pressure medicine:8
- Diuretics: they increase urine and lower fluid and sodium in your body. They help lower blood pressure by lowering blood volume. Examples include furosemide (Lasix), hydrochlorothiazide HCTZ (Esidrix, Hydrodiuril, Microzide) and indapamide (Lozol).
- Beta blockers: they lower blood pressure by reducing the heart rate and blood volume. Examples include atenolol (Tenormin), metroprolol tartrate (Lopressor) and propranolol (Inderal).
- Ace inhibitors: these drugs decrease the production of the hormone angiotensin, which causes blood vessels to narrow and lowers blood pressure. Examples include lisinopil (Prinivil, Zestril) and Ramipril (Altace).
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers: these prevent the hormone angiotensin from binding to receptors in the blood vessels that cause them to narrow. Examples include losartan potassium (Cozaar), irbesarten (Avapro) and valsartan (Diovan).
- Calcium channel blockers: these block calcium from entering into the smooth muscle tissue, which relaxes blood vessels and reduces the heart rate. These include verapamil hydrocholoride (Calan SR, Isoptin SR) and amlodipine besylate (Norvasc, Lotrel)
Your doctor will prescribe the right medicine for you based on your overall health and other conditions you may have. If you’ve been prescribed one of the drugs that were recently recalled due to an impurity in the active ingredient, talk to your doctor about different options. Do not stop your treatment until you’ve discussed it with your healthcare provider.
- “Monitor Your Blood Pressure,” American Heart Association, last accessed May 28, 2019, https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/the-facts-about-high-blood-pressure.
- “What Is High Blood Pressure?,” American Heart Association, last accessed May 28 2019, https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/the-facts-about-high-blood-pressure/what-is-high-blood-pressure.
- “Monitor Your Blood Pressure.”
- “Why Is Healthy Blood Pressure Important to Overall Health?,” Medical News, last accessed May 28, 2019, https://www.news-medical.net/whitepaper/20190514/Why-is-Healthy-Blood-Pressure-Important-to-Overall-Health.aspx.
- “High Blood Pressure,” American Heart Association, last accessed May 28, 2019, https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure.
- “Changes You Can Make to Manage High Blood Pressure,” American Heart Association, last accessed May 28, 2019, https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/changes-you-can-make-to-manage-high-blood-pressure.
- “New High Blood Pressure Guidelines. Think Your Blood Pressure Is Fine? Think Again…,” Harvard Health, last accessed May 28, 2019, https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/new-high-blood-pressure-guidelines-2017111712756.
- Jim Morelli, “High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) Medications,” RxList, last accessed June 26, 2019, https://www.rxlist.com/high_blood_pressure_hypertension_medications/drugs-condition.htm#high_blood_pressure_medication_list.