Written by Rebekah Scott (last updated April 27, 2012)
The only sure fire way to detect high blood pressure is to have a reading taken by a doctor or nurse. Blood pressure is measured by two numbers. The first number, called the systolic pressure, is a measurement of the pressure created in blood vessels when the heart contracts. The second number, called the diastolic pressure, measures pressure in blood vessels while the heart is at rest. A blood pressure reading lists both of these numbers. For example, a systolic pressure of 120 and a diastolic pressure of 80 would be recorded as 120/80, said as 'one-twenty over eighty.' An elevated reading in either one or both of these measurements is a sign of high blood pressure.
A blood pressure test is usually conducted as part of a regular doctor visit. It is also common to find machines that test blood pressure outside of pharmacy counters at supermarkets and drugstores. In this case, the blood pressure test is run by an automated procedure while seated with the arm resting inside a blood pressure cuff that slowly inflates, then deflates to obtain a reading. There is always information posted on these machines about normal blood pressure readings for different age groups.
But beside medical testing, is there any way to know if someone has high blood pressure before a measurement is taken? Yes, and no.
Some of the reported symptoms of high blood pressure include chest pain, blurred vision, fatigue, buzzing noises in the ear, headaches, nose bleeds, and disorientation. A family history of high blood pressure can also serve as a warning sign of a potential problem, as can ethnic background. African Americans are more prone to high blood pressure problems than many other ethnic groups.
However, the danger of having high blood pressure is that in many cases none of these warning signs occur as blood pressure climbs higher and higher. That is why high blood pressure is often called the silent killer. If a person with high blood pressure is never tested, their condition could go undetected for years until elevated blood pressure causes other serious health problem such as heart attack, blindness, stroke, or kidney failure. If it is left untreated, high blood pressure can be deadly.
No one should ever rely on the so-called symptoms of high blood pressure as a sign that there is a problem. The smart thing to do is to have regular check-ups and yearly physicals with a doctor so that high blood pressure can be detected and treated before it causes serious damage to your overall health.
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