Taking Control of Your Blood Pressure

blood pressure basics

Nearly 75 million adults have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, or hypertension, in the United States. That is one out of every three adults. Hypertension is systolic blood pressure (pressure when your heart is pumping) of 140 mm Hg or more or a diastolic blood pressure (the pressure between pumps) of 90 mm Hg or more. This is the level where most physicians will begin medical therapy and lifestyle changes. In diabetic patients and those with heart or kidney disease, medications start even earlier.

People with a systolic blood pressure in the 120 to 139 mm Hg range or a diastolic blood pressure in the 80 to 89 mm Hg range are pre-hypertensive. It is essential that pre-hypertensive patients make lifestyle changes.

The goal of treatment is to achieve a target blood pressure less than 120/80 mm Hg. This reduces the risk of stroke, heart attack, heart failure, retinal diseases of the eye, peripheral arterial disease and kidney damage. Studies show that blood pressure therapy reduces stroke incidence by 35 to 40 percent, myocardial infarction by 20 to 25 percent, and heart failure by more than 50 percent.

Hypertension is usually a lifelong disease. I always tell my patients that in the large majority of cases we cannot “cure” high blood pressure. However, we can definitely control it; and the measures you take to control your blood pressure are in place for life. For life is the key phrase here—to live a healthy, productive, and vital life.

Medications can only do some of the work to manage high blood pressure. You, the patient, must be an active and involved partner in combating the illness.