Definition of "hypertension."
It is the occasional or continued elevation of diastolic or systolic pressure.
The systolic reading (the top number) represents the pressure exerted on the blood vessel wall when the heart is contracting.
The diastolic reading (the bottom number) represents the pressure on the blood vessel wall while the heart is at rest.
Normal blood pressure values. (No absolute dividing line exists between normal and high blood pressure, but the American Heart Association give the following guidelines.)
Blood pressure readings for people age 50 or older should not exceed 160/90.
Blood pressure readings for people age 18-49 should not exceed 140/90.
Factors that may increase risk of hypertension.
Age (hypertension typically affects men older than 35 and women older than 45).
Race (incidence rate is higher in blacks than whites).
High sodium intake.
High cholesterol intake.
Measures to control hypertension.
Monitor blood pressure, and have regular medical checkups.
Take medication exactly as prescribed.
Avoid or control stress. (Provide "Relaxation Techniques" handout.)
Decrease cholesterol to avoid atherosclerosis. (Provide "Decrease Cholesterol Levels" handout.)
Avoid sodium to decrease retention of fluid and the workload of the heart. (Provide "Restrict Sodium" handout.)
Stop smoking (smoking constricts arteries and increases blood pressure).
Achieve and maintain ideal weight. (Provide "Weight Reduction" handout.)
Change from oral contraceptives to another form of birth control.
Possible complications of hypertension.
Retinal damage causing visual changes.
Hypertensive crisis (sharp rise in blood pressure to greater than 200/120, severe headache, vomiting.)