Hypertension and High Blood Pressure
Hypertension and high blood pressure may sound the same but differ. High blood pressure is like a snapshot. It’s a reading you get at a particular moment. On the other hand, hypertension is more like a movie. It’s a long-term condition where high blood pressure lasts over time.
When a doctor checks your blood pressure, they use a device called a sphygmomanometer. It measures two numbers. The top number is systolic pressure. It shows how hard your heart works to pump blood. The bottom number is the diastolic pressure. Diastolic pressure measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart rests between beats. High numbers usually mean high blood pressure at that moment.
But one high reading doesn’t mean you have hypertension. Lots of things can make your blood pressure go up for a short time. Stress, too much salt, and lack of exercise can all play a role. Even going to the doctor can make some people nervous and raise their blood pressure. High blood pressure in this setting is called “white coat syndrome.” The blood pressure goes back to normal when the stress goes away.
So, when does high blood pressure not mean hypertension? If your blood pressure increases sometimes but is usually normal, you probably don’t have hypertension. Doctors typically want several high readings over weeks before saying you have hypertension. Some doctors may also recommend a 24-hour blood pressure monitor. This machine takes your blood pressure many times throughout the day and night. It gives a more complete picture of your heart’s health.
Hypertension is serious because it can lead to significant health issues like heart attacks and strokes. It needs regular treatment and monitoring. On the other hand, a single high blood pressure reading is like a warning sign. It tells you and your doctor to keep an eye on things. But it doesn’t mean you need medication right away.
High blood pressure is a one-time measurement, while hypertension is a long-term condition. A single high reading does not mean you have hypertension. Many factors can cause short-term rises in blood pressure. Doctors need more data over time to diagnose hypertension accurately.
Copyright 2024 William E. Franklin, DO, MBA
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