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Prehypertension is blood
pressure that is higher than normal but not high enough to be
high blood pressure. It is a warning that your blood
pressure is going up.
Blood pressure is a measure of how hard
your blood pushes against the walls of your arteries. Blood pressure that is
too high (also called hypertension) harms your blood vessels. This raises your
kidney failure, and other health problems.
pressure is shown as two numbers, such as 120/80 (say "120 over 80"). The top
number is the pressure when the heart pumps blood. It is called the systolic pressure. The bottom number is the
pressure when the heart relaxes and fills with blood. It is called the diastolic pressure. An ideal blood pressure for an adult is
less than 120/80. High blood pressure is 140/90 or higher. Prehypertension is
between 120/80 and 140/90.
know the exact cause of high blood pressure. But they agree that some things
can make blood pressure go up. They include not getting enough exercise and
being overweight. Eating foods that have too much sodium (salt) and drinking
too much alcohol also can raise blood pressure.
Blood pressure that is
higher than normal does not cause symptoms. Most people feel fine. They find
out they have higher-than-normal blood pressure during a routine exam or a
doctor visit for another problem.
A simple test
with a blood pressure cuff is all you need to find out your
blood pressure. The doctor or nurse puts the cuff around your arm and pumps air
into the cuff. The cuff squeezes your arm. The doctor or nurse takes your blood
pressure while letting the air out of the cuff.
If this test shows that your blood pressure is
higher than normal, your doctor may have you come in for a follow-up visit to be tested again.
This will confirm that you have prehypertension.
Some people only have higher blood pressure when they're at the
doctor's office. This is called
white-coat hypertension. If your doctor thinks this is getting in the way of measuring your
true blood pressure, you may need to take your blood pressure at home.
Heart-healthy lifestyle changes can lower your blood pressure if you have prehypertension.
To lower blood pressure:
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S.
Department of Agriculture (2010). Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010, 7th ed. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing
Office. Also available online:
Other Works Consulted
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2008).
2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (ODPHP
Publication No. U0036). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office.
Weber MA, et al. (2013). Clinical practice guidelines for the management of hypertension in the community. Journal of Clinical Hypertension. DOI: 10.1111/jch.12237. Accessed December 19, 2013.
Current as of:
March 25, 2014
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
& Robert A. Kloner, MD, PhD - Cardiology
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