When the force of the blood against the artery wall increases and then places elevated, the individual is said to have high blood pressure (medical term is hypertension). When this diagnosis is made, it is made for life; therefore. it is not made on a single reading. Generally, it is made by a physician only after they have taken readings at least two or more times on different occasions and over a period of time just to make sure the blood pressure readings are consistent. Because of the serious effects of high blood pressure on the body, doctors are careful in making this diagnosis.

It would be wise for an individual, if their personal physician suspected hypertension, to take their own readings on a regular basis in between doctor visits. The easiest way would be to find a store that offers a blood pressure monitoring device. Many grocery stores or discount stores will have a monitoring device for their customers. Check the blood pressure twice a week or more and keep track of the numbers. It is also important to keep track of the time of day the reading was taken to share with the physician. Blood pressure could be checked morning, afternoon and evening for a few days since there will be fluctuations in the numbers throughout the day. Checking several times throughout the day may show a pattern that would be helpful for the physician. Blood pressure can also be taken in the privacy of the home using a monitoring device purchased from a local store that carries health care products. Ask a pharmacist to recommend a good product for your use and demonstrate how to use it.

If the readings are 140/90 (considered high) on a consistent basis, you should talk to your personal physician about the best way to control your hypertension. In some instances, the doctor may suggest diet, exercise and stress management techniques to see if the hypertension can be controlled without medication. If the readings are dangerously high, being put on medication immediately to control the hypertension may be necessary.

It is critical to get control of the hypertension as soon as possible since the damage is being done with each beat of the heart:

1. Stroke. Obviously, hypertension is an extremely important risk factor since a weakened blood vessel, under high pressure, could break and bleed into the brain causing a stroke. If the arteries are narrowed by the constant high pressure, there is also a possibility of a blood clot locking in one of the narrow artillery causing a stroke. Strokes are the third leading cause of death in America.

2. Vision. hypertension also affects the eyes by causing the blood vessels in the eyes to burst or bleed. Not only can the vision become blurred, in some instances, the severity of the bleeding can lead to blindness.

3. Arteries. As the arteries in the brain, heart and kidneys harden as the result of age and blood pressure, the heart and kidneys must work harder.

4. Heart. One of the major risk factors for a heart attack is hypertension. It is the arteries which provide the heart with nourishment. The arteries carry the blood with oxygen to the heart. If the heart can not get enough oxygen because of narrowed arteries, “angina” which is chest pain can occur. If the arteries are totally blocked and no blood rich with oxygen can get through to the heart, then a heart attack occurs. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America.

5. Congestive Heart Failure (CHF). An individual who has CHF has a heart which is unable to pump enough blood to supply what the body needs to survive. Hypertension is number one risk factor for CHF.

6. Atherosclerosis. Hypertension makes the heart beat too hard contributing to hardening of the arteries.

7. Kidney Disease. High blood pressure makes the kidney work harder contributing to kidney disease.

A reading between 120/80 and 139/89 mmHg means an individual has prehypertension which means there is the potential to prevent raising into the high blood pressure range. If there are no healthy lifestyle changes made at this stage, the blood pressure will continue to rise with the end result being a diagnosis of high blood pressure, a permanent diagnosis.

The catastrophic effects of high blood pressure can not only destroy the quality of life of an individual, but also their finances. So, the important question to ask is “How do I want to live my life?” The answer will either lead to lifestyle changes which prevent or control hypertension and all it's effects – or not!