Hypertension: The No. 1 sign you have high blood pressure, according to a cardiologist

Korin Miller
Writer

Hypertension is known as the “silent killer” and it’s not something that you want to mess with. One in three Americans have hypertension, which puts them at risk for heart attack and stroke.

You’ve probably at least heard of hypertension before, but might be fuzzy on the details of what, exactly, it is. Here’s what you need to know, plus how you lower your blood pressure.

What is hypertension?

Hypertension is high blood pressure, Jackie Eubany, MD, a cardiologist and electrophysiologist, tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “This is when the blood pumping through your blood vessels is going at such a high force,” she explains. “With this high force, you don’t get enough oxygen and nutrients, and that can lead to organ damage.”

What qualifies as having high blood pressure?

People used to be considered as having high blood pressure when their blood pressure was more than 140 over 90, but now it’s considered anything over 120 over 80, Eubany says. “As a result of decreasing the number, there are a whole lot more patients out there now with a diagnosis of hypertension than there used to be,” Eubany says.

How can you interpret your blood pressure reading?

The top number represents the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart contracts and pushes blood forward, Eubany explains. The bottom number is the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart relaxes.

What are the symptoms of high blood pressure?

Most of the time, there are no symptoms. “You can have high blood pressure and have no symptoms until something catastrophic happens like a stroke, heart attack, kidney failure, going blind or losing limbs,” Eubany says.

How is high blood pressure diagnosed?

It’s actually pretty easy. Simply have your blood pressure diagnosed by a medical professional, or you can check your own blood pressure with a kit.

What happens if you’re diagnosed with high blood pressure?

Typically, your doctor will recommend lifestyle changes. That includes losing weight if you’re obese, quitting smoking if you smoke, increasing your physical activity and eating a heart healthy diet like the Mediterranean diet, Eubany says. You’ll also want to try to have less red meat, saturated fat, cholesterol and salt.

If that doesn’t help, your doctor may recommend medication to try to lower your blood pressure, Eubany says. “At the end of the day, you want to lead a healthy life,” she adds.