Uncategorized Cardiovascular Disease High Blood Pressure Common Diseases

Hypertension Work-up: A Patient-Friendly Summary

This entry is part 6 of 6 in the series A Simplified Guide to Hypertension

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is often detected when you have slightly higher than normal blood pressure readings on at least two different occasions. This condition can be confirmed through a range of measurements including at home, at the doctor’s office, or through a device you wear that tracks your blood pressure throughout the day. The treatment for high blood pressure hinges on a few factors like any other health conditions you might have, the overall risk to your heart health, or if the high blood pressure is being caused by something else that might be reversible.

Once hypertension has been confirmed, your doctor will try to figure out:

  • The level of damage (if any) to your organs caused by the high blood pressure.
  • Your overall risk of heart disease.
  • If there’s an identifiable and potentially curable cause of the high blood pressure.

If your blood pressure is extremely high (systolic ≥180 mmHg and/or diastolic ≥120 mmHg), you need immediate evaluation and possibly immediate treatment. The complete evaluation for the cause is usually postponed until the blood pressure is lowered to safer levels.

The Basic Work-up

This includes a thorough history and physical examination, particularly focusing on the blood pressure and looking for any factors that may contribute to hypertension. 

  • History: The doctor will ask about your lifestyle, your personal medical history, any symptoms you have, and your family medical history to help figure out if there are any triggers or risk factors for high blood pressure. 
  • Physical examination: The doctor will measure your blood pressure using the proper technique, check for signs of damage to your organs (like changes in your eyes due to high blood pressure), and listen to the blood flow in various parts of your body. 
  • Laboratory testing: This will include tests for your blood sugar, kidney function, cholesterol levels, and urine tests. These tests can help identify if high blood pressure has caused any damage to your organs or if there’s a hidden cause to your hypertension. An ECG (electrocardiogram) will be performed to check your heart’s rhythm and electrical activity.

Assessment of Cardiovascular Risk

Along with hypertension, there are other factors that can increase your risk of heart disease. The doctor will calculate your risk based on different factors such as age, sex, cholesterol levels, smoking status, and blood pressure. This risk score helps your doctor decide whether you need medication for your high blood pressure and what your target blood pressure should be.  

In summary, if you have hypertension, your doctor will perform a comprehensive evaluation to assess your condition, identify possible causes, figure out the extent of any damage, and determine an appropriate treatment strategy. It’s important to have regular check-ups and maintain an open line of communication with your healthcare provider so you can manage your blood pressure effectively and live a heart-healthy life.

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