Understanding Symptoms of Prehypertension and How It Is Diagnosed
People with a blood pressure of 140/90 and higher are said to have high blood pressure, or hypertension. Before now, most people with blood pressure readings lower than 140/90 were considered to be in the normal blood pressure range. However, in an extensive review of more than 30 medical studies worldwide during the last 6 years, a scientific panel learned a lot more about the risks associated with rising blood pressure.
The panel found that problems in the cardiovascular system, (the heart and blood vessel system that carries blood throughout the body) can begin at much lower blood pressure levels than previously believed. Studies have shown that the risk of death from heart disease or stroke can begin to rise when blood pressures increase past 115/75. In addition to heart attack and stroke, elevated blood pressure can lead to several other serious health conditions, including kidney disease. And the damage only gets worse as people age and their rising blood pressure becomes more difficult to treat.
That's why the panel developed a new range -- called "prehypertension" -- for blood pressure readings between 120/80 and 139/89. People who have readings in this range are now encouraged to adopt lifestyle changes to help lower their blood pressure and hopefully prevent hypertension.
Just like high blood pressure, prehypertension usually doesn't cause symptoms. But just because there are no symptoms does not mean that damage is not occurring.
It usually takes several years for prehypertension and high blood pressure to cause noticeable symptoms, and even when they do cause problems, the symptoms are often mild and nonspecific (meaning that they could be caused by several different conditions). People with prehypertension typically don't even realize they have it until they have blood pressure readings that are too high.