Normal blood pressure is under 120/80 mmHg. People with blood pressure readings of 120-139/80-89 mmHg have borderline high blood pressure. Blood pressure is high when the reading is over 140/90 mmHg.
Hypertension is high blood pressure that continues for an extended period. It's possible to have high blood pressure but not hypertension. For example, if a person has extreme stress that causes their blood pressure to rise dramatically but it settles to normal ranges a day later, they don't have hypertension.
The cause of high blood pressure can vary widely. It's quite common for people who have high blood pressure to have several of the risk factors that predispose them towards this condition. These risk factors include age, poor diet, lethargic lifestyle, and being overweight or obese. Blood pressure can temporarily spike in times of great stress, as well. It also appears that the tendency towards high blood pressure may run in some families.
Blood pressure is checked by the doctor, nurse, or medical assistant. A machine called a sphygmomanometer measures blood pressure using an inflatable cuff that is placed on the patient's upper arm. The blood pressure reading takes just a minute or so. This reading is typically done every time a patient visits their doctor.
If high blood pressure is not addressed medically, it can have severe health consequences. Heart failure, heart disease, heart attack, and stroke are all possible in people with high blood pressure.
High blood pressure has sometimes been called "the silent killer" because it rarely has any symptoms. It's important that patients see their doctor regularly for blood pressure readings, and seek help if they diagnosed with high blood pressure. The doctor can help the patient with lifestyle changes and can provide medication that will regulate the blood pressure, as well.