Hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, is the force that blood exerts against the walls of the blood vessels. The pressure depends on both the amount of blood the heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries. The more blood the heart pumps and the narrower the arteries, the higher the blood pressure.
High blood pressure develops over many years and may be caused by various conditions and medications such as birth control pills, over-the-counter pain relievers, kidney problems, adrenal gland tumours, thyroid problems and certain congenital defects.
Hypertension does not normally cause any symptoms, even when blood pressure readings reach dangerously high levels. In some cases, hypertension may cause symptoms such as headaches, shortness of breath or nosebleeds. These symptoms may occur when hypertension has reached a severe or life-threatening stage.
How is hypertension diagnosed?
To measure blood pressure, Dr du Plooy will place an inflatable arm cuff around your arm and measure your blood pressure using a pressure-measuring gauge. Blood pressure measurements fall into the following categories:
- Normal blood pressure – This is when your blood pressure is below 120/80 mm Hg.
- Elevated blood pressure – This is a systolic pressure that ranges from 120 to129 mm Hg and a diastolic pressure, which is below 80 mm. Elevated blood pressure tends to get worse over time.
- Stage 1 hypertension – This is a systolic pressure that ranges from 130 to 139 mm Hg or a diastolic pressure which ranges from 80 to 89 mm Hg.
- Stage 2 hypertension – This is more severe hypertension. This is a systolic pressure of 140 mm Hg or higher or a diastolic pressure of 90 mm Hg or higher.
A medical specialist may take 2 to 3 blood pressure tests each at 3 or more separate appointments before diagnosing high blood pressure. This is done because blood pressure normally varies throughout the day and may be elevated during your appointment. Blood pressure may be measured in both arms to determine if there could be any difference in the test.