High blood pressure (HBP) is diagnosed using a blood pressure test. This test will be done several times to make sure the results are correct. If your numbers are high, your doctor may have you return for repeat tests to check your blood pressure over time.
If your blood pressure is 140/90 mmHg or higher over time, your doctor will likely diagnose you with HBP. If you have diabetes or chronic kidney disease, a blood pressure of 130/80 mmHg or higher is considered HBP.
The ranges for HBP in children are different, as discussed below.
How Is Blood Pressure Tested?
A blood pressure test is easy and painless. This test is done at a doctor's office or clinic.
To prepare for the test:
- Don't drink coffee or smoke cigarettes for 30 minutes prior to the test. These actions may cause a short-term rise in your blood pressure.
- Go to the bathroom before the test. Having a full bladder can change your blood pressure reading.
- Sit for 5 minutes before the test. Movement can cause short-term rises in blood pressure.
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.
Diagnosing High Blood Pressure in Children and Teens
Doctors measure blood pressure in children and teens the same way they do in adults. Your child should have routine blood pressure checks starting at 3 years of age.
Blood pressure normally rises with age and body size. Newborn babies often have very low blood pressure numbers, while older teens have numbers similar to adults.
The ranges for normal blood pressure and HBP generally are lower for youth than for adults. To find out whether a child has HBP, a doctor will compare the child's blood pressure numbers to average numbers for his or her age, gender, and height.
For more information, go to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's "A Pocket Guide to Blood Pressure Measurement in Children."
What Does a Diagnosis of High Blood Pressure Mean?
If you're diagnosed with HBP, your doctor will prescribe treatment. Your blood pressure will be tested again to see how the treatment affects it.
Once your blood pressure is under control, you'll still need treatment. "Under control" means that your blood pressure numbers are in the normal range. Your doctor will likely recommend routine blood pressure tests. He or she can tell you how often you should be tested.
Myth-busting blood pressure - a hypertension Google+ hangout in honor of World Hypertension Day04/18/2013
Moderated by American Heart Association CEO Nancy Brown, this "Google+ Hangout on Air" features a panel of experts from the American Heart Association as well as nutritionist Janet M. de Jesus from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. The panelists discuss common myths and misconceptions about hypertension (high blood pressure) and what you can do to prevent or treat the "silent killer." The chat was streamed live on April 5, 2013 in honor of World Health Day on Sunday, April 7.
The NHLBI "Grand Opportunity" Exome Sequencing Project05/16/2012
This video—presented by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health—discusses the NHLBI's Exome Sequencing Project. Made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, this project provided six awards at five academic institutions to identify genetic connections to heart, lung, and blood diseases. Individual studies will address critical health issues, such as heart attack, stroke, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, overweight and obesity, and others.
Managing High Blood Pressure With Lifestyle Changes05/18/2011
This video—presented by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health—shows how Kendra, the mother of a teenaged daughter, has learned to manage her high blood pressure. Before being diagnosed with high blood pressure, Kendra suffered from chronic headaches and tiredness. At a health fair sponsored by her company, Kendra learned that her blood pressure was high, which prompted her to see her doctor.
After being diagnosed with high blood pressure, Kendra made a commitment to living a healthier lifestyle. By following a healthy diet and being physically active, she lost almost 60 pounds. With the support of her girlfriend and daughter, Kendra has maintained her weight loss and continues to make lifestyle changes that allow her to live an active, happy life.
For more information about managing high blood pressure with lifestyle changes, go to the Health Topics High Blood Pressure article.