Blood pressure varies over time. But how do you know if you have high blood pressure (HBP)? Because of normal variations, doctors do not diagnose high blood pressure unless repeated measurements show it to be consistently high. Doctors diagnose pre-hypertension as a systolic blood pressure between 120-140 and diastolic blood pressure between 80-90. Hypertension diagnosis is a consistent systolic measurement equal to or higher than 140 and a diastolic measurement consistently equal to or higher than 90. If you have been diagnosed with diabetes or chronic kidney disease, a blood pressure of 130/80 mmHg or higher is considered HBP.
Pre-hypertension = 120/80 mmHg
Hypertension = 140/90 mmHg *
Your doctor will diagnose high blood pressure using the results of blood pressure tests. These tests will be done several times to make sure the results are correct. If your numbers are high, your doctor may have you return for more tests to check your blood pressure over time. Because some medications (over-the-counter cold medicines, antidepressants, and birth control pills) can raise your blood pressure, it’s helpful to bring a list of medications and supplements with you to a doctor’s appointment.
Blood pressure test - A blood pressure test is easy and painless. To measure your blood pressure, your doctor or nurse will use some type of a gauge, a stethoscope (or electronic sensor), and a blood pressure cuff. Most often, you will sit or lie down with the cuff around your arm as your doctor or nurse checks your blood pressure. If he or she doesn't tell you what your blood pressure numbers are, you should ask. To prepare for the test:
- Don't drink coffee or smoke cigarettes for 30 minutes before the test, which can cause a short-term rise in blood pressure.
- Go to the bathroom before the test because a full bladder can alter blood pressure readings.
- Sit for 5 minutes before the test. Movement can cause short-term rises in blood pressure.
If you're diagnosed with high blood pressure, you will need treatment and you will need to have your blood pressure tested again to see how treatment affects it. Once blood pressure is under control, doctors recommend you stay on treatment. Click here to learn more about your options for hypertension treatment.