Diagnosing and treating hypertension
Regular doctor visits and health screenings are vital to your health, and monitoring your blood pressure is part of regular care maintenance. When blood pressure is high, it starts to damage the blood vessels, heart and kidneys. This can lead to heart attack, stroke and other problems. The higher your blood pressure, the greater your risk. Lowering blood pressure lowers the risk of problems.
If you are diagnosed with hypertension, your healthcare provider will help you understand your options for treatment and help decide what's best for you.
Frequently asked questions
During a routine visit, your doctor will measure your blood pressure. Your doctor may ask you to test it again when you are home. This is because your blood pressure can change throughout the day. To diagnose high blood pressure, your doctor needs to know if your blood pressure is high throughout the day.
Your care provider uses a blood pressure monitor to screen for high blood pressure. A blood pressure cuff is wrapped around your bare upper arm. The cuff is then pumped up and slowly released. Either an automatic or manual monitor can be used.
After measuring your blood pressure, your doctor may ask you to test it again when you are home. This is because your blood pressure can change throughout the day. And sometimes blood pressure is high only because you are seeing the doctor. This is called white-coat hypertension.
In some cases, your doctor may ask you to monitor your blood pressure at home using an "ambulatory" blood pressure monitor, which automatically measures your blood pressure several times throughout the day.
The treatments for high blood pressure are lifestyle changes and daily medicines.
Treatment depends on how high your blood pressure is and if you have other health problems, like diabetes. It also depends on whether any organs have already been damaged. Your doctor also may check your risk for other problems, like heart attack and stroke.
Your doctor will give you a blood pressure goal based on your health and your age. Your doctor will suggest making lifestyle changes. It may help to:
- Stay at a healthy weight. Or it may help to lose weight, if you need to.
- Be physically active.
- Limit alcohol.
- Eat less sodium.
- Eat heart-healthy foods.
If these changes aren't enough to bring your blood pressure down to your goal, your doctor may recommend that you take pills. Most people who take pills for high blood pressure need to take two or more kinds of pills that work together.