Blood pressure is the force exerted on your artery walls as blood flows through your body. Slightly elevated blood pressure is known as Pre-hypertension. Left untreated, Pre-hypertension is likely to progress to definite high blood pressure. Both Pre-hypertension and high blood pressure increase your risk of heart attack, stroke and heart failure. A blood pressure reading has two numbers. The first, or upper, number measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats (systolic pressure). The second, or lower, number measures the pressure in your arteries between beats (diastolic pressure). Normal blood pressure is below 120 systolic/80 diastolic as measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Pre-hypertension is a systolic pressure from 120 to 139 or a diastolic pressure from 80 to 89. You can't see or feel Pre-hypertension, but there's plenty you can do about it. Weight loss, exercise and other healthy lifestyle changes can often control Pre-hypertension and set the stage for a lifetime of better health
Signs and Symptoms (Warning Sign)
Pre-hypertension doesn't cause symptoms. In fact, even advanced high blood pressure may not cause symptoms. The only way to detect Pre-hypertension is to keep track of your blood pressure readings. Have your blood pressure checked at each doctor's visit or check it yourself at home with a home blood pressure monitoring device. Blood pressure measurements from a device in a hospitals or other public location may not be accurate if the cuff isn't the right size for you or if the device hasn't been serviced regularly.
Any factor that increases pressure against the artery walls including narrowing of the arteries and a greater than normal volume of blood can lead to Pre-hypertension. Sometimes an underlying condition causes blood pressure to rise, including:
- Sleep apnea
- Kidney disease
- Adrenal disease
- Thyroid disease
Certain medications including birth control pills, cold remedies, decongestants, over-the-counter pain relievers and some prescription drugs also may cause blood pressure to rise. Illegal drugs, such as cocaine can have the same effect.
Often, however, high blood pressure develops gradually over many years without a specific identifiable cause.
More than 30 percent of adults have Pre-hypertension. A primary risk factor is being overweight . The greater your body mass (BMI), the more blood you need to supply oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. As the volume of blood circulated through your blood vessels increases, so does the force on your artery walls.
Pre-hypertension is more common in men than in women. Younger adults are more likely to have Pre-hypertension than are older adults probably because most older adults have already progressed to high blood pressure. In fact, adults who are healthy at age 45 have a 90 percent chance of developing high blood pressure at some point in their lives.
Other risk factors may include:
- Family history of high blood pressure
- inactive lifestyle
- Diet high in sodium or low in potassium
- Tobacco use
- Excessive alcohol use
Certain chronic conditions including high cholesterol, diabetes and sleep apnea may increase the risk of Pre-hypertension as well.
When to seek medical advice
Ask your doctor for a blood pressure reading at least every two years. He or she may recommend more frequent readings if you have Pre-hypertension or other risk factors for cardiovascular disease.
Normal blood pressure is below 120/80. Higher readings are classified as:
- Pre-hypertension 120/80 to 139/89
- Stage 1 hypertension 140/90 to 159/99
- Stage 2 hypertension 160/100 or higher
Because blood pressure tends to fluctuate, a diagnosis of Pre-hypertension is based on the average of two or more blood pressure readings taken on separate occasions in a consistent manner.
Pre-hypertension can damage your organs and increase the risk of heart attack, stroke and heart failure. And it tends to get worse over time. Within four years of being diagnosed with Pre-hypertension, nearly two in three adults ages 35 to 64 and nearly one in two adults age 65 or older progress to definite high blood pressure.
As your blood pressure increases, so does your risk of cardiovascular disease. That's why it's so important to control Pre-hypertension. The key is a commitment to healthy lifestyle changes.
If you have Pre-hypertension accompanied by diabetes, kidney disease or cardiovascular disease, your doctor may recommend blood pressure medication in addition to lifestyle changes. The benefits of medication for other adults with Pre-hypertension are less clear. Although a 2006 study found that early medication and lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of eventually developing high blood pressure, the long-term effects of early medication are unknown.
The same healthy lifestyle changes recommended to treat Pre-hypertension also help prevent high blood pressure. You've heard it before eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight, drink less alcohol. But take the advice to heart. Start adopting healthier habits today.