What Are the Signs and Symptoms of High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure is called the silent killer because you can have it for years without knowing it. The only way to find out if you have high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure measured. Using a blood pressure cuff and stethoscope or electronic sensor, your doctor or nurse can take your blood pressure and tell you if it is high.
Even though high blood pressure usually has no signs or symptoms, it is dangerous if it continues over time. It is important to find out whether you have high blood pressure and, if you do, how to keep it under control.
Read More: How Is High Blood Pressure Treated?
How Do You Know Whether You Have High Blood Pressure?
Only your doctor can tell you whether you have high blood pressure. Most doctors will check your blood pressure several times on different days before deciding that you have high blood pressure. A diagnosis of high blood pressure is given if repeated readings are 140/90 mmHg or higher, or 130/80 mmHg or higher if you have diabetes or chronic kidney disease.
Having your blood pressure tested is quick and easy. Your doctor or nurse will use some type of a gauge, a stethoscope (or electronic sensor), and a blood pressure cuff, also called a sphygmomanometer (sfig-mo-ma-NOM-e-ter).
Blood pressure readings are usually taken when you are sitting or lying down and relaxed. Below are things you can do before getting your blood pressure taken:
- Do not drink coffee or smoke cigarettes 30 minutes before having your blood pressure taken.
- Wear short sleeves.
- Go to the bathroom before the reading. Having a full bladder can change your blood pressure reading.
- Sit for 5 minutes before the test.
You should ask the doctor or nurse to tell you the blood pressure reading in numbers.
You also can check your blood pressure at home with a home blood pressure measurement device, or monitor. It is important that you understand how to use the monitor properly. Your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist can help you check the monitor and teach you how to use it correctly. You also may ask for their help in choosing the right blood pressure monitor. Blood pressure monitors can be bought at discount chain stores and pharmacies. Below are additional things to do when taking your blood pressure at home:
- Sit with your back supported and your feet flat on the floor.
- Rest your arm on a table at the level of your heart.
- Take two readings, at least 2 minutes apart, and average the results.
Some people's blood pressure is high only when they visit the doctor's office. This condition is called white coat hypertension. If your doctor suspects this, you may be asked to check and record your blood pressure at home with a home monitor. Another way to check blood pressure away from the doctor's office is by using an ambulatory blood pressure monitor. This device is worn for 24 hours and can take blood pressure every 30 minutes.