High Blood Pressure Diagnosed and Treated at Mercy

 

This 3D medical animation depicts the factors that determine blood pressure. It also shows the walls of arteries and how high blood pressure affects them.

The cardiologists at The Heart Center at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland, have extensive experience in the treatment of high blood pressure, also known as hypertension.  Our doctors are dedicated to using best practices to return high blood pressure to normal range and to help patients understand what can be done to achieve and maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle.

About the Condition

High blood pressure is the abnormally high force of blood pushing against the inside walls of arteries as it travels to all parts of the body. Blood pressure is measured and defined using two numbers. The higher number (systolic) always comes first. It measures the pressure of blood flow as the heart is pumping. The lower number (diastolic) measures the blood pressure while the heart is resting between beats. An example of a normal blood pressure reading would be 110/75 mmHg.

Blood pressure can vary during the day depending on activity level, but should be in the normal range of systolic reading of less than 120 and diastolic reading of less than 80 most of the time.

When no specific cause can be found for high blood pressure it is called primary hypertension or essential hypertension. When other health conditions or medicines are identified as the cause of high blood pressure, it is called secondary hypertension.

Risk factors for hypertension include:

  • Older age
  • Diet high in salt or fats or both
  • Family history of hypertension
  • Certain medications
  • Smoking or excessive  alcohol use
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Overweight or obesity
  • Prolonged stress
  • Chronic health problems such as diabetes or atherosclerosis
NEXT: Symptoms & Diagnostic Process ›
Symptoms & Diagnostic Process

Hypertension is a common condition among adults in the United States. It is often called a silent condition as there are usually no symptoms. In some cases, patients can have it for years and not know it.

High blood pressure is diagnosed when a number of readings are too high over a period of time. The American Heart Association defines these categories of high blood pressure:

  • Prehypertension:
    • Higher number between 120 & 139
    • Lower number between 80 & 89
  • Stage 1 hypertension:
    • Higher number between 140 & 159
    • Lower number between 90 & 99
  • Stage 2 hypertension:
    • Higher number more than 160 
    • Lower number more than 100
  • Hypertensive crisis:
    • Higher number more than 180 
    • Lower number more than 110 (this is an emergency and requires immediate treatment)
NEXT: Treatment Options ›
Treatment Options

The aim of treatment is to bring blood pressure readings back down into the normal range and keep them there. Prompt treatment can prevent or lessen complications such as heart disease, kidney failure or stroke.

If lifestyle changes are recommended they may include the following:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet
  • Limit alcohol and caffeine
  • Stay physically active
  • Stop smoking
  • Learn ways to manage stress

Many types of medication are available to effectively control hypertension:

  • Diuretics
  • Beta-blockers
  • ACE inhibitors
  • Angiotensin II receptor blockers
  • Calcium channel blockers
  • Alpha blockers
  • Alpha-beta blockers
  • Nervous system inhibitors
  • Vasodilators

Often more than one drug is needed to keep blood pressure in the normal range. It is very important to take the medications as directed. Do not stop taking them without checking with your doctor.

The physicians at The Heart Center at Mercy can assist you in finding the best treatment for controlling hypertension and can help you maintain a healthy lifestyle through ongoing monitoring of your blood pressure and regular checkups.