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 - Northwestern Memorial Hospital - Chicago

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, otherwise known as hypertension, is a common problem affecting millions of people. It is equally common in men and women. However, women tend to note a bigger increase in blood pressure in the post-menopausal years compared to men of the same age. The majority of individuals who develop hypertension do so without a specific cause. Hypertension can sometimes run in families. Therefore, individuals with other relatives with high blood pressure should be screened at a young age and frequently thereafter. Hypertension often has no symptoms and has thus been referred to as "the silent killer."

When the blood pressure is severely elevated, symptoms may include:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Vision changes

Hypertension that is not treated can be dangerous and can cause:

The diagnosis of hypertension is made by measuring the pressure with a blood pressure cuff. This measurement is routinely performed by a nurse or doctor. Two measurements are made when the blood pressure is measured. The first measurement is called "systolic blood pressure."  This is the top number in the blood pressure reading and represents the pressure generated when the heart beats. The second measurement is called "diastolic pressure." This is the bottom number in the blood pressure reading and represents the pressure in the blood vessels when the heart is at rest.

Hypertension is present when:

The systolic pressure is consistently over 140 mmHg or the diastolic pressure is over 90 mmHg.

Prehypertension is a condition that is present when the systolic pressure is consistently between 120-139 mmHg or the diastolic pressure is between 80-89 mmHg in multiple readings. Individuals with prehypertension are also at risk for heart disease and stroke, so lifestyle changes are very important at this stage. Many people with prehypertension will go on to develop hypertension.

Treatment of Hypertension includes:

  • A low salt diet
  • An exercise program
  • Weight loss
  • Blood pressure medications if lifestyle changes do not work

Contact

For more information regarding the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute, please call 1-866-662-8467 or request a first time appointment online.

Last UpdateMarch 16, 2011
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