Some 30% of the U.S. population has hypertension (high blood pressure). For those who aren’t aware of their condition, it’s a hidden time bomb because hypertension is one of the major risk factors for stroke and heart disease. All too often, it is undiagnosed and untreated. At our Miami clinic, we urge our patients to have a hypertension evaluation on a regular basis. An evaluation starts with a basic measurement of blood pressure. These two numbers can tell us quite a bit about your cardiovascular disease risk profile.

Ideal blood pressure is no higher than 120/80. The top number, referring to pressure in the arteries when the heart is beating, is called systolic. The bottom number measures pressure in the arteries between heart beats, which is called diastolic.

If your systolic pressure is 120-139, you would be considered pre-hypertensive. This means you are at risk of developing high blood pressure.

If your systolic pressure is 140-159, you have stage-1 high blood pressure. If your systolic pressure is 160 or higher, you have stage-2 hypertension. If it’s higher than 180, you should seek immediate medical attention.

The bottom number, the diastolic pressure, rises accordingly with each of these stages: less than 80 is considered normal; 80-89 is pre-hypertensive; 90-99 is stage-1 high blood pressure; 100 or higher is stage-2 hypertension; and higher than 110 requires emergency care.

Typically, older people tend to have higher blood pressure, as our arteries stiffen with age. Plus most of us gain weight and our risk of cardiovascular disease increases as we get older. It’s important to have your blood pressure measured on a regular basis, as one isolated reading does not give us a true picture. Blood pressure is dependent on a number of variables, including time of day, stress, and your general health at the time of the reading.

Fortunately, there are treatments for hypertension that are non-invasive and effective. We can make recommendations for lifestyle changes, and advise you on diet and exercise programs. If your hypertension is acute or doesn’t seem to respond to these modifications, there are medications the doctor will discuss with you.