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Detecting and Managing Hypertension

How Is Hypertension Diagnosed?

Hypertension can only be diagnosed after taking several readings to find your average blood pressure. To find this, your blood pressure needs to be taken two or more times and each reading must be from a different day. If the average of these readings is more than 140/90, you have hypertension.
 
A single reading of more than 140/90 doesn't necessarily mean that you have hypertension. But your doctor will probably want to monitor your blood pressure over a period of time to see if it stays there. You can also have hypertension if the average of only one of the numbers (systolic or diastolic) is too high (see Isolated Systolic Hypertension).
 

Hypertension and Associated Health Risks

Hypertension does not cause problems over days, weeks, or months; rather, it causes problems over many years and can affect your entire body. By adding strain to the blood vessel walls, hypertension makes them more likely to develop a buildup of fat and cholesterol -- also known as "hardening" of the arteries. This, in turn, puts extra strain on your heart as it pumps blood through the narrowed arteries.
 
Over time, the strain hypertension causes on the heart and blood vessels can increase the risk of serious health problems, such as:
 

Treatment Options for Hypertension

Hypertension can be controlled through a combination of lifestyle changes and, in many cases, medications. Together, these can help lower blood pressure in many people and get them closer to a normal blood pressure.
 
Lifestyle changes are often the first step in hypertension treatment. In addition to helping control the disease, lifestyle changes often improve the quality of a person's life. As you make changes to your lifestyle, it may take three to six months before your healthcare provider sees the full benefit these changes may have on your condition. Some of these changes may include:
 
  • Exercising
  • Losing weight
  • Changing your diet
  • Drinking less alcohol
  • Reducing salt intake.
     
In addition to lifestyle changes, many medications are available to control hypertension. Each works in a slightly different way. Everyone reacts differently to medicine, so you may need to try a few different types before your healthcare provider finds the best one for you. If your doctor has prescribed pills for you, it's important to take them exactly as directed.
 
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