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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. But you can
take steps to get your blood pressure back to normal.
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. Normal blood pressure is
less than 120/80. High blood pressure is 140/90 or higher. Prehypertension is
between 120/80 and 140/90. Your blood pressure can be too high even if only one
of the two numbers is high.
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.
pressure may be measured at two or more separate times to make sure that it is
higher than normal. This is because blood pressure goes up and down throughout
the day. Also, some people have higher blood pressure when they are in a
doctor's office, but they have normal blood pressure at other times. This is
white-coat hypertension. If you think you may have
this, talk to your doctor about checking your blood pressure more often to see
if you really have high blood pressure.
Many people can lower their
blood pressure with diet, exercise, and other lifestyle changes. If those steps
don't lower your blood pressure enough, you can take medicine. But because you
are treating your blood pressure before it gets too high, lifestyle changes may
be all you need.
Here's what you can do to help get your blood
pressure back to normal.
Visit the American Heart Association (AHA) website for information on
physical activity, diet, and various heart-related conditions. You can search for information on heart disease and stroke, share information with friends and family, and use tools to help you make heart-healthy goals and plans. Contact the AHA to find your
nearest local or state AHA group. The AHA provides brochures and information
about support groups and community programs, including Mended Hearts, a
nationwide organization whose members visit people with heart problems and
provide information and support.
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
Expert Panel on Integrated Guidelines for Cardiovascular Health and Risk Reduction in Children and Adolescents (2011). Expert panel on integrated guidelines for cardiovascular health and risk reduction in children and adolescents: Summary report. Pediatrics, 128(Suppl 5): S213–S256.
Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection,
Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure (2003). Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure JNC Express
(NIH Publication No. 03–5233). Bethesda, MD: U.S. Department of Health and
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.
March 29, 2013
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
& Robert A. Kloner, MD, PhD - Cardiology
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