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What is Hypertension?

By: Joanne Guttman, MD

Hypertension is another word for high blood pressure. It doesn’t mean you are particularly tense or anxious (although sometimes being anxious can make your blood pressure go up), hypertension means your blood pressure, when checked by a healthcare professional, is higher than normal. In most cases, this means higher than 140/90, although doctors like blood pressure to be even lower than that for diabetics and people with certain other health programs.

We worry about high blood pressure because it can lead to heart disease and stroke. Keeping your blood pressure down can decrease risks for these diseases.

Ways to lower your blood pressure include cutting down on salt and increasing calcium in your diet, as well as keeping your weight down to a normal level. Regular exercise definitely helps lower blood pressure. We know smoking tobacco raises blood pressure by making blood vessels tighten up, so stopping smoking is a very important part of the treatment plan. Additionally, certain medications, such as decongestants or illicit drugs, can raise blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, it’s best to work on decreasing some of these risk factors.

In addition to decreasing risk factors, medication may need to be prescribed for you to get your blood pressure down to a healthy level. These medications include beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, water pills and more. They all have different uses and side effects, so you should discuss which option may be right for you with your healthcare provider.

Because most people don’t experience symptoms due to high blood pressure, it’s important you have your blood pressure checked often. If you’re in need of a family medicine provider, view our physicians here.