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What to Do If Blood Pressure Is Over 220?

By Donna McFadden ; Updated July 27, 2017

Regardless of age, high blood pressure increases a person’s risks for developing a number of life-threatening illnesses and conditions. High blood pressure usually develops over a period of many years. It’s known as a silent killer, since there are few symptoms. Treatments for high blood pressure include lifestyle changes and prescription medications.

Normal Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is recorded in a top number and a lower number written in the form of a fraction. A normal blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg (millimeters of mercury). Systolic is the top number. It measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart muscle contracts or beats. Diastolic is the lower number and measures the pressure in the arteries between heart beats. The systolic number is the higher of the two numbers. Verbally, blood pressure is expressed as 120 over 80.

High Blood Pressure

Normal blood pressure will rise and fall over the course of the day. When blood pressure remains elevated, it is referred to as high blood pressure. High blood pressure is also called hypertension. A blood pressure reading of 140/90 mmHg or over falls under the heading of high blood pressure. When a person has high blood pressure the heart must work harder to pump blood through the body. High blood pressure increases the risks for serious health conditions, including heart attack and stroke. It can lead to hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis). It is also blamed for congestive heart failure, blindness and kidney disease. Symptoms associated with high blood pressure include dizziness, nosebleeds, and dull headaches. Most of these symptoms do not appear until the blood pressure is at a dangerously high level.


The first course of treatment is a medical consultation, checkup and testing. The doctor may run a number of tests and ask a lot of questions. These questions will help him determine the source or sources of the high blood pressure.

Lifestyle changes are essential in the treatment of high blood pressure. People with high blood pressure should avoid foods that are high in fat and opt for healthy, well-balanced meals. Additionally, they should get plenty of exercise.

If the blood pressure reading is very high, or if the doctor believes there is increased risk, he may prescribe blood pressure medications. There are a number of different blood pressure medications. Beta blockers open up arteries so the heart does not have to work as hard to pump blood. Alpha blockers help restrict the ability of natural chemicals to narrow blood vessels. Diuretics help the kidneys eliminate excess water and sodium, which reduces blood volume. Diuretics are often given in combination with other blood pressure medications. Vasodilators prevent the muscles in the walls of the arteries from tightening and narrowing the arteries. Other high blood pressure medications include angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin II receptor blockers, alpha-beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, renin inhibitors, and central-acting agents. Blood pressure medication must be taken exactly as prescribed.

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