What is it?
Hypertension is a condition diagnosed by having high blood pressure on more than one occasion and ideally in more than one setting (ex: doctor's office, home machine, pharmacy, etc). Blood pressure may be elevated in situations such as during exercise, while having an argument or in a stressful situation, or while experiencing emotions such as anger or grief. Hypertension is distinguished from high blood pressure because it is a chronic condition rather than just your body's brief response to a temporary situation.
How do I know if I have it?
The dramatic description of being "the silent killer" can actually be true. Many people have no idea that they have hypertension. Symptoms can be headaches, blurry vision, chest pain,shortness of breath, or even problems urinating. Unfortunately many people find out they have hypertension only after it has done damage to their heart, kidneys, vision, or circulation.
How can I get tested for it?
The simplest way to get tested is to have your blood pressure checked. I check blood pressure for my patient's at every office visit, but you can also check it at health fairs, pharmacies, or if you know someone who has a home machine. The ideal blood pressure is often stated as 120/80, but numbers slightly above and certainly below that can also be healthy.
How can I be treated for it?
Hypertension is treated with a lower salt diet, exercise and medications. It is important to ask your doctor what you can do to improve your blood pressure in addition to, or maybe even instead of, medication use. I stress a low salt diet for every patient, exercise for those who are able, and medication to keep the blood pressure within normal limits and avoid long term consequences.