Nearly 1 in 2 adults in the United States has hypertension or high blood pressure. If left untreated, it can put you at risk for other health conditions such as stroke, heart failure, kidney failure, and other medical issues or emergencies. At Capital Area Cardiovascular Associates, we work with our patients on a hypertension management program to reduce their risk of other health problems.
If you suspect you have high blood pressure, schedule an appointment with cardiologist Dr. Nadar today.
What Is High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)?
Your blood pressure reading is a measurement of the force or pressure of blood pumping against the blood vessel walls. High blood pressure is often known as the "silent killer," as it doesn't exhibit bothersome symptoms. You may not even realize you have hypertension.
Blood pressure is measured using two numbers - your systolic blood pressure (top number) and your diastolic blood pressure (bottom number). The systolic number measures the pressure when your heart beats or contracts and the diastolic number measures the pressure on your blood vessels when your heart is at rest or in between beats.
Blood pressure ranges fall into four categories:
- Normal: Under 130/80 mmHg
- Stage I hypertension (mild): 130-139/or diastolic between 80-89 mmHg
- Stage II hypertension (moderate): 140/90 mmHg or higher
- Hypertensive crisis (get emergency care): 180/120 mmHg or higher
Both numbers in your blood pressure reading are important and inform Dr. Nadar and his cardiology team of potential heart diseases including your risk for a heart attack. Because blood pressure fluctuates over the course of the day, we may use different tests and methodologies to confirm your diagnosis.
How Do You Test for High Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is checked at every appointment in our office as well as at any appointment with your primary care physician or other doctors. Because some patients experience "white coat" syndrome where their blood pressure is elevated due to the stress of seeing a physician, we may order some or all of the following tests to reach a diagnosis:
- Ambulatory Monitoring: Ambulatory monitoring is a 24-48 hour blood pressure monitoring test where you wear a small device that records your blood pressure regularly.
- Lab Tests: We may recommend blood tests and a urine test that may reveal risk factors for hypertension.
- Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): An ECG is a quick, non-invasive test that measures your heart's electrical activity.
- Echocardiogram: In some cases, Dr. Nadar may also recommend an echo to check for more signs of cardiovascular disease.
Tests for high blood pressure are typically easy for patients to undergo. There are no serious side effects or risks involved with hypertension testing and diagnosis.
What Treatment is Available for Hypertension Management?
If Dr. Nadar and his team determine you have high blood pressure, we will work with you on a comprehensive hypertension management plan. While every patient is different, all hypertension management programs consider at least one of the following approaches:
Modifications to diet: One of the easiest things you can do to manage high blood pressure is to make certain modifications to your diet. Patients with high blood pressure should eat a low sodium diet with heart-healthy foods like fruit and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or non-fat dairy products. In addition, patients with high blood pressure should limit or remove alcohol from their diet.
Starting or adjusting an exercise program: Regular physical activity can not only help manage hypertension, but it also provides overall health benefits such as weight management and stress relief.
Blood pressure medicine: In some cases, it's hard to manage high blood pressure with modifications to diet and exercise programs alone. Blood pressure medicine may be prescribed based on your specific situation. Medications used to treat hypertension include:
- Diuretics: Diuretics are often used in patients with kidney disease and are also one of the first drugs tried to treat hypertension. Diuretics, or water pills, help your kidneys eliminate sodium and excess water from your body.
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors: ACE inhibitors help relax your blood vessels by blocking the formation of the enzyme angiotensin II. Angiotensin II causes your blood vessels to narrow and increases blood pressure.
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs): ARBs also relax blood vessels like ACE inhibitors but in a different way. ARBs block the action, not the formation, of angiotensin II.
Other medications that may be prescribed for high blood pressure include alpha blockers, beta blockers, aldosterone antagonists, renin inhibitors, and others. Dr. Nadar will prescribe the medicine or combination of medicines that will best manage your hypertension.