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Monitoring your blood pressure is essential to helping control elevated blood pressure or hypertension, which can cause stroke, heart attack, kidney damage or other organ damage.

Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). The classifications in the table below are for people who aren’t taking antihypertensive (blood pressure-lowering) drugs and aren’t acutely ill. When a person’s systolic and diastolic pressures fall into different categories, the higher category is used to classify the blood pressure status. Diagnosing high blood pressure is based on the average of two or more readings taken at each of two or more visits after an initial screening.


Classification of blood pressure for adults age 18 years and older

Category Systolic (mm Hg) Diastolic (mm Hg)
Normal* less than 120 and less than 80
Prehypertension 120–139 or 80–89
Stage 1 140–159 or 90–99
Stage 2 160 or higher or 100 or higher

* Unusually low readings should be evaluated for clinical significance.

(From the Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure)


Hypertension is called the silent killer, but when pressure gets to extremes, it can cause pain and discomfort and death. At moderate elevated levels it can cause damage to blood vessels and organs day after day.

Here is my story with hypertension …
I am Mark Bostrom, a personal trainer and the publisher for I workout daily, so I am ‘in tune’ with my body and how it feels. I workout a lot with weights and do cardio, such as running/jogging, using an elliptical trainer or biking. This year I was a little lacking on cardio, but I was starting to increase my outdoor cardio work with the better weather in Chicago. Actually, in late May and early June, I noticed my workouts were lacking the usual vigor that I normally experienced. During the first week of summer in June, 2007, I started to get a dull ache in the back of my neck. I was pretty sure I was having trouble with blood pressure. I was getting less sleep than usual and my schedule was pretty stressful — meeting clients and working on websites.

I thought I would get my pressure back down with more rest, less stress and a little better diet than usual. When I took my blood pressure it was 180/110 mm Hg. I really couldn’t believe my eyes or my ears from listening in the stethoscope.

Foolishly, I was reluctant to go to the doctor because I thought I could get my BP back down. Plus, I was afraid of a thousand dollar plus emergency room bill. I also had an episode of high blood pressure at about 165/100 mm Hg with the same, familiar headache in the back of the neck about three years prior, when I did successfully get my pressure back down to 124/84 mm Hg with rest and a change in diet. But this time was different — my pressure would not go down. I cut back on my diet and ate water melon in the morning, hoping it would act as a natural diuretic. I even lost about 10 pounds in 5 days hoping the weight loss would help, but one night my pressure was actually up — to 200/120 mm Hg. The headache moved to the left side of my head and my left ear. I noticed the back of my neck still hurt when I turned my head to the left or right. It was uncomfortable checking left and right at intersections while driving earlier in the day. It wasn’t a severe headache, but it was annoying. Tylenol helped it feel better. There was a sort of anxiety, too. My face felt stiff, but not numb. My reaction time felt slowed down, but probably just because of the discomfort.

Well, obviously it was time to go the doctor. The doctor was concerned, of course. And we were both saying, ‘What is up with this blood pressure?’ I was checked for eye damage (AV nicking minimal or inconclusive), left ventricular hypertrophy (looked OK from EKG) and I got a full blood test. A slight amount of blood was in my urine on a quick screen — a sign of kidney strain.

Fortunately, Diovan HCT (160 mg/12.5 mg) got my blood pressure right down and while writing this it is: 131/83 mm Hg. Not perfect yet, but definitely lower. Symptoms are now gone. No heada
che. No face stiffness. No anxiety.

I will be publishing my blood pressure readings with any notes on what I am learning about blood pressure and hypertension. I am sure the review will be helpful to me and to others. My log for BP monitoring is posted below (REFRESH/VIEW) …

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