Blood Pressure Overview
pumps blood into the arteries with enough force to push
blood to the far reaches of each organ from the top of
the head to the bottom of the feet. Blood pressure can
be defined as the pressure of blood on the walls of the
arteries as it circulates through the body. Blood
pressure is highest as its leaves the heart through the
aorta and gradually decreases as it enters smaller and
smaller blood vessels (arteries, arterioles, and
capillaries). Blood returns in the veins leading to the
heart, aided by gravity and muscle contraction.
Hypertension is the medical term for high blood
pressure. It is known as the "silent killer" since it
has no initial symptoms but can lead to long-term
disease and complications..
people have high blood pressure and don't know it.
Important complications of uncontrolled or poorly
treated high blood pressure include heart attack,
congestive heart failure, stroke, kidney failure,
peripheral artery disease, and aortic aneurysms
(weakening of the wall of the aorta, leading to
widening or ballooning of the aorta).
awareness of these dangers has increased. High blood
pressure has become the second most common reason
for medical office visits in the United States.
blood pressure measured?
pressure is measured with a blood pressure cuff and
recorded as two numbers, for example, 120/80 mm Hg
(millimeters of mercury). Blood pressure measurements
are usually taken at the upper arm over the brachial
top, larger number is called the systolic
pressure. This measures the pressure generated
when the heart contracts (pumps). It reflects the
pressure of the blood against arterial walls.
bottom, smaller number is called the diastolic
pressure. This reflects the pressure in the
arteries while the heart is filling and resting
American Heart Association has recommended guidelines to
define normal and high blood pressure.
Normal blood pressure
less than 120/80
High blood pressure
(stage 1) 140-159/90-99
High blood pressure
(stage 2) higher than 160/100
As many as
60 million Americans have high blood pressure.
High blood pressure usually causes no symptoms and high
blood pressure often is labeled "the silent killer."
People who have high blood pressure typically don't know
it until their blood pressure is measured.
Sometimes people with markedly elevated blood pressure
* blurred vision,
* nausea and vomiting, and
* chest pain and shortness of breath.
People often do not seek medical care until they have
symptoms arising from the organ damage caused by chronic
(ongoing, long-term) high blood pressure. The following
types of organ damage are commonly seen in chronic high
* Heart attack
* Heart failure
* Stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA)
* Kidney failure
* Eye damage with progressive vision loss
* Peripheral arterial disease causing leg pain with
* Outpouchings of the aorta, called aneurysms
About 1% of people with high blood pressure do not seek
medical care until the high blood pressure is very
severe, a condition known as malignant hypertension.
* In malignant hypertension, the diastolic blood
pressure (the lower number) often exceeds 140 mm Hg.
* Malignant hypertension may be associated with
headache, lightheadedness, nausea, vomiting, and stroke
* Malignant hypertension requires emergency intervention
and lowering of blood pressure to prevent brain
hemorrhage or stroke.
It is of utmost importance to realize that high blood
pressure can be unrecognized for years, causing no
symptoms but causing progressive damage to the heart,
other organs, and blood vessels.