Definition

What is prehypertension?

Slightly elevated blood pressure is known as prehypertension. Prehypertension will likely turn into high blood pressure (hypertension) unless you make lifestyle changes, such as getting more exercise and eating healthier foods. Both prehypertension 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). Prehypertension is a systolic pressure from 120 to 139 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or a diastolic pressure from 80 to 89 mm Hg.

How common is prehypertension?

Nearly half of all adults older than age 18 have prehypertension or hypertension, as measured by average of two or more readings at two or more doctor’s visits. You may wonder if high blood pressure happens with aging, but experts say no. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of prehypertension?

Prehypertension doesn’t cause symptoms. In fact, severe high blood pressure may not cause symptoms.

The only way to detect prehypertension 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.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

Ask your doctor for a blood pressure reading at least once every two years starting at age 18. You may need more-frequent readings if you have prehypertension or other risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Causes

What causes prehypertension?

Any factor that increases pressure against the artery walls can lead to prehypertension. Atherosclerosis, which is the buildup of fatty deposits in your arteries, can lead to high blood pressure. Sometimes an underlying condition causes blood pressure to rise. Possible conditions that can lead to prehypertension or high blood pressure include:

  • Atherosclerosis
  • Obstructive 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 temporarily rise. Illegal drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamines, can have the same effect.

Often, however, high blood pressure develops gradually over many years without a specific identifiable cause.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for prehypertension?

There are many risk factors for prehypertension, such as:

  • Being overweight or obese. A primary risk factor is being overweight. The greater your body mass, 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.
  • Younger adults are more likely to have prehypertension than are older adults. Many older adults have progressed to high blood pressure, and the risk of high blood pressure increases as you age.
  • Prehypertension is more common in men than in women. Through early middle age, or about age 45, high blood pressure is more common in men. Women are more likely to develop high blood pressure after age 65.
  • High blood pressure is particularly common among blacks, often developing at an earlier age than it does in whites.
  • Family history of high blood pressure. High blood pressure tends to run in families. If a first-degree relative, such as a parent or sibling, has high blood pressure, you’re more likely to develop the condition.
  • Not being physically active. Not exercising can increase your risk of high blood pressure and increase your risk of being overweight.
  • Diet high in salt (sodium) or low in potassium. Sodium and potassium are two key nutrients in the way your body regulates your blood pressure. If you have too much sodium or too little potassium in your diet, you’re more likely to have high blood pressure.
  • Tobacco use. Smoking cigarettes, chewing tobacco or even being around other people who are smoking (secondhand smoke) can increase your blood pressure.
  • Drinking too much alcohol. Drinking more than two drinks a day if you’re a man age 65 or younger or more than one drink a day if you’re a woman of any age or a man older than age 65 can increase your blood pressure. One drink equals 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.
  • Certain chronic conditions. Certain chronic conditions — including kidney disease, diabetes and sleep apnea — may increase the risk of prehypertension.

Although prehypertension and high blood pressure are most common in adults, children may be at risk, too. For some children, high blood pressure is caused by problems with the kidneys or heart. But for a growing number of kids, poor lifestyle habits, such as an unhealthy diet, obesity and lack of exercise, contribute to prehypertension and high blood pressure.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is prehypertension diagnosed?

To diagnose prehypertension, you’ll have a blood pressure test. Your doctor or a specialist will usually place an inflatable arm cuff around your arm and measure your blood pressure using a pressure-measuring gauge.

A blood pressure reading, given in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), 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).

Your blood pressure is considered normal if it’s below 120/80 mm Hg. Other blood pressure measurements are categorized as:

Prehypertension. Prehypertension is a systolic pressure ranging from 120 to 139 mm Hg or a diastolic pressure ranging from 80 to 89 mm Hg.

Stage 1 hypertension. Stage 1 hypertension is a systolic pressure ranging from 140 to 159 mm Hg or a diastolic pressure ranging from 90 to 99 mm Hg.

Stage 2 hypertension. More severe hypertension, stage 2 hypertension is a systolic pressure of 160 mm Hg or higher or a diastolic pressure of 100 mm Hg or higher.

Because blood pressure tends to fluctuate, a diagnosis of prehypertension is based on the average of two or more blood pressure readings taken on separate occasions in a consistent manner. Your blood pressure generally should be measured in both arms to determine if there is a difference. Your doctor may ask you to record your blood pressure at home and at work to provide additional information.

Your doctor may suggest a 24-hour blood pressure monitoring test called ambulatory blood pressure monitoring. The device used for this test measures your blood pressure at regular intervals over a 24-hour period and provides a more accurate picture of blood pressure changes over an average day and night. However, these devices aren’t available in all medical centers, and they’re rarely reimbursed.

How is prehypertension treated?

Prehypertension is a warning sign. It means that you’re at a greater risk of high blood pressure. Depending on your blood pressure and risk factors for heart disease, you may only need to make a few lifestyle adjustments. Here are some strategies to help you manage prehypertension:

  • Lose weight if you are overweight. Being overweight increases the risk of high blood pressure. However, losing weight can lower high blood pressure. Studies show that modest weight loss can prevent hypertension by 20% in overweight people with prehypertension.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise helps you lose weight. Exercise also helps lower blood pressure.
  • Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and low-fat dairy. Studies show high blood pressure can be lowered and prevented with the DASH diet. This[TM1] diet is low in sodium and high in potassium, magnesium, calcium, protein, and fiber.
  • Cut back on dietary salt/sodium. A diet high in sodium (salt) can increase blood pressure. A low-sodium diet can lower high blood pressure — or prevent it. Aim for less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium daily (about 1 teaspoon of table salt).
  • Eat foods low in saturated and trans fat and cholesterol. Diets high in saturated fat (meats and high-fat dairy), trans fat (some margarine, snack foods, and pastries) and cholesterol (organ meats, high-fat dairy, and egg yolks) may lead to obesity, heart disease, and cancer.
  • Eat a plant-based or vegetarian diet. Add high-protein soy foods to your diet. Increase servings of fruits and vegetables by adding one serving at a time. You can add a serving of fruit at lunchtime. Then add a serving of vegetables at dinner.
  • Drink only in moderation. Drinking excess alcohol can increase blood pressure. Limit drinking to no more than two drinks a day for men, and one drink a day for women.
  • It’s important to get your blood pressure checked regularly. Know your blood pressure number. Let your doctor know if your blood pressure number is higher.
  • You can monitor your blood pressure between doctor’s visits with a home blood pressure monitor. Or, you can use an electronic blood pressure monitor at your local pharmacy, grocery store, or fire station.
  • Talk to your doctor about your blood pressure. Ask if diet and exercise can help lower your risk of getting high blood pressure.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage prehypertension?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with prehypertension:

  • Eat healthy foods. Eat a healthy diet. Try the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. Choose fruits, vegetables, whole grains, poultry, fish and low-fat dairy foods. Get plenty of potassium, which can help lower blood pressure. Eat less saturated fat and trans fat.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Keeping a healthy weight, or losing weight if you’re overweight or obese, can help you control your blood pressure and lower your risk of related health problems. If you’re overweight, losing even 5 pounds (2.3 kilograms) can lower your blood pressure.
  • Use less salt. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting sodium to less than 2,300 mg a day. A lower sodium level — 1,500 milligrams (mg) a day — is appropriate for people 51 years of age or older, and individuals of any age who are black or who have hypertension, diabetes or chronic kidney disease.While you can reduce the amount of salt you eat by putting down the saltshaker, you usually should also pay attention to the amount of salt that’s in the processed foods you eat, such as canned soups or frozen dinners.
  • Increase physical activity. Regular physical activity can help lower your blood pressure, manage stress, reduce your risk of other health problems and keep your weight under control.
  • For most healthy adults, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends that you get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination or moderate and vigorous activity. Aim to do muscle-strengthening exercises at least two days a week.
  • Limit alcohol. If you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger. One drink equals 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.
  • Don’t smoke. Tobacco injures blood vessel walls and speeds up the process of hardening of the arteries. If you smoke, ask your doctor to help you quit.
  • Manage stress. Reduce stress as much as possible. Practice healthy coping techniques, such as muscle relaxation, deep breathing or meditation. Getting regular physical activity and plenty of sleep can help, too.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: December 1, 2017 | Last Modified: December 1, 2017

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