How Do Doctors Diagnose High Blood Pressure?

How Do Doctors Diagnose High Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a common and potentially dangerous health condition. Unfortunately, many people don’t notice they have high blood pressure because the symptoms often aren’t obvious. So how do doctors diagnose high blood pressure? Read on to find out.

Understanding Blood Pressure Readings

Doctors first measure blood pressure using a sphygmomanometer, which includes a cuff that inflates around your arm. They use this device to measure the force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps.

The measurement provides two numbers: the systolic pressure, the higher number indicating the pressure while your heart beats, and the diastolic pressure, the lower number representing the pressure when your heart rests between beats.

A blood pressure reading higher than 130/80 mmHg on several occasions typically leads to a diagnosis of high blood pressure.

Medical History and Physical Examination

When you visit the doctor with concerns or for a routine checkup, they gather your medical history and conduct a physical examination. They inquire about your family history of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and other relevant health issues. They also ask about your lifestyle, including your diet, physical activity level, and whether you smoke or consume alcohol. This information, combined with a physical examination, helps them assess your risk factors for high blood pressure.

Additional Tests and Monitoring

If your initial blood pressure readings are high, your doctor might suggest additional testing to confirm the diagnosis. Testing might also check for signs of heart disease or kidney damage, which are complications of high blood pressure. These tests can include blood tests, a cholesterol test, an electrocardiogram (EKG/ECG) to measure your heart’s electrical activity, or an echocardiogram to visualize how your heart beats and pumps blood. ECGs in particular fight high blood pressure in many ways, making them a popular tool for doctors. Your doctor may also advise ambulatory blood pressure monitoring (ABPM), meaning you wear a blood pressure cuff for 24 hours to assess how your blood pressure changes throughout the day.

Now that you understand how doctors diagnose and monitor high blood pressure, you can be informed for your next medical checkup. Understanding this process can also help ease any anxiety about seeking medical advice and ensure you receive the appropriate care to manage your blood pressure effectively.

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