The heart’s an effective pump that beats 60 to 80 times per minute all life long and propels 5 to 6 liters of blood per minute to the whole body.

Arterial pressure is the force with which the heart pumps the blood that exits it and the resistance the blood encounters to circulate in the body.

The arterial pressure can be modified by the variation in the blood volume or blood thickness, in the heart rate (heartbeats per min), and in vessel elasticity. The hormonal and nervous stimuli that regulate blood resistance are affected by personal and environmental influences.

What is it?

Arterial hypertension is an arterial pressure above 140 x 90 mmHg (millimeters of mercury) in adults older than 18 years, gauged at a 15-minute rest and confirmed 3 times in a row and at several medical visits.

Occasional pressure elevations can occur with physical exercises, anxiety, drugs, food, smoking, alcohol and coffee.

Procedures to measure arterial pressure

Some procedures must be adopted when arterial pressure is checked:

a 15-min rest in a quiet and pleasant place
the bladder must be empty (urinate previously)
after exercises, alcohol, coffee or smoking, wait for 30 min to take measurements
the cuff of the pressure measurement device must be held fast and well adjusted to the arm, being as wide as 40% of the arm girth; the arm must be placed at the level of the heart
don’t speak during the procedure
wait 1 to 2 min between measurements
a special cuff must be used for children and obese people
a seated or lying position is recommended during the measurement routine
the measure with the lowest value is the one that is valid

Arterial pressure levels

The arterial pressure is considered normal when the systolic pressure (maximum) doesn’t go beyond 130 and the diastolic pressure (minimum) is lower than 85 mmHg.

According to the clinical status, repeat measurements are recommended to be taken at least in two or more medical visits.

In the table below we see the variations in normal arterial pressure and hypertension in adults above 18 years old in mmHg:

< 130 < 85 Normal
130-139 85- 89 Normal borderline
140 -159 90 – 99 mild hypertension
160-179 100-109 moderate hypertension
> 179 > 109 severe hypertension
> 140 < 90 maximum or systolic hypertension

In Brazil, 10-15% of the population is hypertense. Most people is unaware they suffer from hypertension.

Arterial hypertension can be systolic and diastolic (maximum and minimum) or systolic only (maximum). Most of such individuals, 95%, have arterial hypertension called primary (without a cause), and 5% have arterial hypertension secondary to a definite cause.

The finding of arterial hypertension is high in overweight people (20-40%), diabetics (30-60%), blacks (20-30%), and elderly people (30-50%). In elderly individuals, hypertension is almost always only systolic or maximum.

Systemic arterial hypertension

This is a chronic illness that can lead to complications which may reach other organs and systems when untreated or not managed properly.

in the central nervous system can occur infarction, hemorrhage and hypertensive encephalopathy;

in the heart can occur ischemic cardiopathy (angina), heart failure, heart augmentation, and, in some cases, sudden death;

in patients with associated chronic renal failure, nephrosclerosis always occur;

in the vascular system may occur clogging and obstructions of the carotid arteries, aorta aneurysm and peripheral vascular disease of the lower limbs;

in the visual system, there is retinopathy, which largely reduces the patient’s sight.

Questions you can ask your doctor about:

– What’s high pressure?

– What’s the level of my pressure?

– Must I check out my pressure at home?

– What may happen if high pressure remains untreated?

– What are the side effects from treatment?