Since there are no symptoms, the diagnosis of high blood pressure is found when doing a physical examination for other medical reasons.
Your doctor will use an instrument called a sphygmomanometer. It consists of a blood pressure cuff that is wrapped around the upper arm and inflated with air to stop the blood flow in the artery for a few seconds. A valve is opened and air is then released from the cuff. The sounds of the blood rushing through an artery is heard through a stethoscope. The first sound heard is the systolic pressure and the last sound is the diastolic pressure.
The cut-offs from normal levels to high blood pressure, with varying degrees of severity, are:
Normal blood pressure:
- Optimal: systolic less than 120; diastolic less than 80
- Normal: systolic less than 130, diastolic less than 85
- High normal: systolic 130-139, diastolic 85-89
High blood pressure:
- Stage 1 (mild) systolic 140-159, diastolic 90-99
- Stage 2 (moderate) systolic 160-179, diastolic 100- 109
- Stage 3 (severe) systolic 180-209, diastolic 110-119
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