High Blood Pressure At A Glance


On average, the human heart beats about 100,000 times over the course of 24 hours, with each of these heartbeats sending 2.5 ounces of blood through the heart. That’s approximately 1,980 gallons of blood each and every day!

Blood pressure refers to the force of blood against the heart’s chambers, veins, and arteries as it is pumped through the body. And when blood-pressure levels are higher than normal, the force of the blood begins to weaken the arterial walls, making it easier for harmful substances such as oxidized cholesterol and toxins to attach themselves as dangerous deposits upon them.

There are two types of high blood pressure. The most common form is known as essential hypertension and refers to high blood pressure of an unknown cause. Over 90 percent of all cases of high blood pressure diagnosed in the US each year fall into this category. The second form of high blood pressure is known as secondary hypertension, caused by either kidney damage or endocrine dysfunction. Note: Treatment for secondary hypertension must be given by a health professional and goes beyond the scope of this article.

Blood pressure is measured by placing an inflatable cuff around the upper arm. As the cuff inflates, the arm is squeezed tight, allowing for the pulse to be heard through a stethoscope. The cuff is then deflated and the pulse is heard again, indicating the high, or systolic, pressure as the heart contracts to pump blood through the body. After the sound of the pulse fades, the health practitioner waits for it to return, and when it does, it provides the low, or diastolic, pressure as the heart relaxes to refill with blood. The ratio of the systolic and diastolic readings equals one’s blood pressure level.

“Recommendations for normal verses elevated blood pressure have changed based upon the latest studies,” explains Richard O’Brian, DO, an integrative physician in Utica, N.Y. “Recently a new classification has been established—pre-hypertension—to indicate levels verging on the risk of high blood pressure. The current classifications are:

• Normal < 120 / <80

• Pre-Hypertension 120-139 / 80-89

• Stage I Hypertension 140-159 / 90-99

• Stage II Hypertension > 160 / > 100

“The purpose of these classifications is to treat hyper- tension earlier and to be a guide in the selection of initial treatment plans,” Dr. O’Brian adds.