High blood pressure is a common condition in which the force of the blood against your artery walls is high enough that it may eventually cause health problems. Primary care physicians monitor and treat both prehypertension and high blood pressure.
Prehypertension occurs when the top number of your blood pressure reading, the systolic number is 120–139, and the bottom number, the diastolic, is 80–89. Hypertension occurs when the top number of your blood pressure reading is 140 or higher and the bottom is 90 or higher. Heart attack and stroke are just two of the risk factors associated with uncontrolled high blood pressure.
Call 911 for emergency medical attention when your blood pressure readings rise to 180 or above for the top (systolic) number, OR 110 or higher for the bottom (diastolic) number.
See your doctor as soon as possible if your blood pressure is higher than 140/90 mm Hg because this can mean a serious cardiovascular problem.
Uncontrolled high blood pressure can injure or even kill you if left untreated. Since it often does not have symptoms, it is called “the silent killer”, so you may not be aware that it is damaging your arteries, heart and other organs. Over time, there can be damage to your heart and coronary arteries, congestive heart failure, fatty buildups in the arteries that cause them to harden, stroke, kidney damage, erectile dysfunction, memory loss, fluid in the lungs, angina, and peripheral artery disease.
Your primary care doctor will work with you to lower your blood pressure and risks by:
- Monitoring your blood pressure readings with the goal of preventing any complications from your risk factors.
- Developing a heart-healthy diet such as the American Heart Association’s D.A.S.H. plan, with a focus on healthy foods and reducing your intake of sodium from table salt and packaged, processed foods.
- Creating an exercise plan that keeps you more active—at least 150 minutes (two and a half hours) per week of moderate intensity exercise. To lower your blood pressure or cholesterol, aim for 40 minutes of moderate intensity exercise three to four times per week.
- Establishing a weight loss goal, If you are overweight, losing as little as five to 10 pounds may help you lower your blood pressure.
- Managing the stress in your life, stop smoking, and reduce your alcohol consumption. All of these risk factors contribute to high blood pressure and reducing or removing them will help lower your numbers.
Your doctor may prescribe a medication to control your high blood pressure if your systolic number (top number) is 140 or higher and your diastolic number (bottom number) is 90 or higher. Staying on track with your medications is important in managing your high blood pressure.