Based on extensive research, the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure considers the normal range to be systolic pressure under 120 and diastolic pressure under 80 mmHg. They also break abnormal blood pressures into these categories:
Classifying hypertension into stages helps providers identify risk and treat accordingly.
In most cases, high blood pressure isn't accompanied by any abnormal signs and symptoms and is instead detected during routine physical examinations. Having an annual physical with a trusted primary care doctor is key to prevention and early detection/treatment of hypertension.
In hypertensive emergencies, when the blood pressure is extraordinarily high, patients may notice chest pain, severe headache, or difficulty breathing. Patients experiencing these symptoms should seek treatment immediately.
The cause of high blood pressure isn't always known, but some common culprits include obesity, poor diet, inactivity, genetics, and older age.
Several severe medical issues can result from unmanaged hypertension, including:
The most important lifestyle change is diet. Doctors often recommend the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, which focuses on:
Patients should also stop smoking if they smoke, lose weight, add regular exercise to their daily routine, limit alcohol intake, and seek evaluation and treatment of sleep apnea if they have or suspect they have it.
Lifestyle changes are considered the first line of treatment for hypertension, but when they fail to yield results or when blood pressure is high enough to prevent significant risks, medication can also be prescribed.