Topic Overview

What is medium risk (high-normal) blood pressure?

Medium risk blood pressure is blood pressure that is higher than normal but not high enough to be high blood pressure. It is a warning that your blood pressure is going up.

Blood pressure is a measure of how hard your blood pushes against the walls of your arteries. Blood pressure that is too high (also called hypertension) harms your blood vessels. This raises your risk of heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, and other health problems. But you can take steps to get your blood pressure back to normal.

Blood pressure is shown as two numbers, such as 120/80 (say "120 over 80"). The top number is the pressure when the heart pumps blood. It is called the systolic pressure. The bottom number is the pressure when the heart relaxes and fills with blood. It is called the diastolic pressure. Low risk (ideal) blood pressure is less than 120/80. High risk blood pressure (hypertension) is 140/90 or higher. You have medium risk blood pressure when your numbers are between the low and high risk values. Your blood pressure can be too high even if only one of the two numbers is high.

What makes blood pressure go up?

Experts don't know the exact cause of high blood pressure. But they agree that some things can make blood pressure go up. They include not getting enough exercise and being overweight. Eating foods that have too much sodium (salt) and drinking too much alcohol also can raise blood pressure.

What are the symptoms?

Blood pressure that is higher than normal does not cause symptoms. Most people feel fine. They find out they have higher-than-normal blood pressure during a routine examination or a doctor visit for another problem.

How is medium risk blood pressure diagnosed?

A simple test with a blood pressure cuff is all you need to find out your blood pressure. The doctor or nurse puts the cuff around your arm and pumps air into the cuff. The cuff squeezes your arm. The doctor or nurse takes your blood pressure while letting the air out of the cuff.

If this test shows that your blood pressure is higher than normal, your doctor may have you come in for a follow-up visit to be tested again or have you test your blood pressure at home. This will confirm that you have medium risk blood pressure.

Some people only have higher blood pressure when they're at the doctor's office. This is called white-coat hypertension. If your doctor thinks this is getting in the way of measuring your true blood pressure, you may need to take your blood pressure at home.

How is it treated?

Many people can lower their blood pressure with diet, exercise, and other lifestyle changes. If those steps don't lower your blood pressure enough, you can take medicine. But because you are treating your blood pressure before it gets too high, lifestyle changes may be all you need.

Here's what you can do to help get your blood pressure back to normal.

  • Do not smoke or use other tobacco products. If you do smoke, talk to your doctor about treatments that can help you quit.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight. Losing as little as 4.5 kg (10 lb) can help lower your blood pressure.
  • Eat a healthy diet. The DASH diet is an eating plan that can help lower your blood pressure. DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. It focuses on eating foods that are high in calcium, potassium, and magnesium. The DASH diet includes lots of fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains, fish, and poultry. Your doctor may suggest that you talk to a dietitian if you need help planning what to eat.
  • Cut back on salt. For good health, less is best. The Canadian Hypertension Education Program (CHEP) recommends that most people eat no more than 2,000 mg of sodium each day.footnote 1 Your doctor will tell you how much you can have. Do not add salt to your food. Limit processed and canned foods, such as soups, frozen meals, and packaged snacks.
  • Limit alcohol to 2 drinks a day and no more than 14 drinks a week for men and 9 drinks a week for women.footnote 2 If your blood pressure tends to go up when you have alcohol, your doctor may suggest that you do not drink any alcohol.
  • Try to do moderate or vigorous activity at least 2½ hours a week. It is fine to be active in blocks of 10 minutes or more throughout your day and week.

Other Places To Get Help

Organizations

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
www.heartandstroke.com
Hypertension Canada: Understanding Hypertension
www.hypertension.ca/hypertension-home

References

Citations

  1. Dasgupta, K, et al. (2014). 2014 Canadian Hypertension Education Program recommendations for blood pressure measurement, diagnosis, assessment of risk, prevention, and treatment of hypertension. Canadian Journal of Cardiology, 30: 485-501. http://download.journals.elsevierhealth.com/pdfs/journals/0828-282X/PIIS0828282X14000701.pdf. Accessed June 17, 2014.
  2. Canadian Hypertension Education Program (2013). 2013 Canadian Hypertension Education Program (CHEP) recommendations for the management of hypertension. Available online: http://www.hypertension.ca/chep-dp2.

Other Works Consulted

  • Expert Panel on Integrated Guidelines for Cardiovascular Health and Risk Reduction in Children and Adolescents (2011). Expert panel on integrated guidelines for cardiovascular health and risk reduction in children and adolescents: Summary report. Pediatrics, 128(Suppl 5): S213-S256.
  • Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure (2003). Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure JNC Express (NIH Publication No. 03-5233). Bethesda, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  • U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2008). 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (ODPHP Publication No. U0036). Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Available online: http://www.health.gov/paguidelines/guidelines/default.aspx.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Brian D. O'Brien, MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Robert A. Kloner, MD, PhD - Cardiology

Current as ofApril 3, 2017