Blood pressure is determined by the amount of blood that the heart pumps and the arteries’ capability to resist blood flow. If your heart pumps more blood and your arteries become narrow, the higher your blood pressure will be. High blood pressure typically develops without signs or symptoms, and if uncontrolled, it increases one’s risk of serious health problems that include stroke and heart attack. High blood pressure affects nearly everyone eventually, especially when one reaches old age. Fortunately, high blood pressure can be easily detected, and once it is detected, one can work with his doctor to help control it.

There are two kinds of high blood pressure. One is the essential hypertension or primary hypertension, which tends to develop gradually over many years. The second type of high blood pressure or secondary hypertension on the other hand, tends to appear suddenly. Kidney abnormalities, tumors of the adrenal gland or certain congenital heart defects can lead to this kind of hypertension. Even certain medications such as birth control pills, cold remedies, decongestants, pain relievers and other prescription drugs may cause secondary hypertension. Alcohol and other addictive substances (cocaine, amphetamines, etc.) can also increase blood pressure.

There are no signs of high blood pressure for most people even if their blood pressure readings reach dangerously high levels. Some of the symptoms of early-stage high blood pressure are dull headaches, dizzy spells, and more nosebleeds than normal. The bad news is, these signs and symptoms do not occur until high blood pressure has reached an advanced stage.

Blood pressure is measured with an inflatable arm cuff and a pressure-measuring gauge. A blood pressure reading is given in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). It also has two numbers. The first number measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats. This is called the systolic pressure. The second number measures the pressure in the arteries between beats. This is called the diastolic pressure.

One has normal blood pressure if reading is below 120/80 mm Hg or 115/75 mm. If the systolic pressure ranges from 120 to 139, or if the diastolic pressure ranges from 80 to 89, then one has pre-hypertension. Stage 1 hypertension is present if the systolic pressure becomes 140 to 159, or if the diastolic pressure becomes 90 to 99. If the systolic pressure is 160 or higher, or the diastolic pressure is 100 or higher, then one has Stage 2 hypertension. Complications of high blood pressure can be damage of arteries and other vital organs, heart failure, blocked or ruptured blood vessel in the brain which can lead to a stroke, weakened and narrowed blood vessels in kidneys, thickened, narrowed or torn blood vessels in the eyes which can result in vision loss, metabolic syndrome, and cognitive impairment and dementia.

Usually, a single high blood pressure reading isn’t enough for a diagnosis. Blood pressure varies throughout the day depending on several factors. Diagnosis is based on more than one reading taken on more than one occasion. In order to do so, it is much easier and more convenient to use a home blood pressure monitor. Not only does it reduce expenses by cutting the number of doctor visits, it is also helps in easy recording of blood pressure readings.

There are commercially available electronic units. These units are as reliable as traditional aneroid monitors. Not only that, they are user-friendly and the possibility of human error is minimal. Electronic units also vary and one can choose according to his needs. There are fully automatic units for ultimate ease and convenience. Individuals with poor eyesight can avail of units with large easy-to-read digital display monitors. There are also units that have error indicators which can be very useful. For easier recordkeeping, most units have a memory feature. One can also avail of electronic units with adjustable arm cuff sizes so that people with very large upper arms may also use the product. Just remember, bring a newly purchased monitor to the doctor so that it can be checked for suitability and accuracy.