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All of us have had, at one time or another, our blood pressure measured in a doctor's office or at a health fair. Although amazingly simple to do, the results are vitally important to your health.

Your blood pressure is literally the pressure of your blood inside the arteries of your body. If the pressure is too high, damage to internal organs may occur.

Hypertension, the medical term for high blood pressure, is typically said to be present when the blood pressure is greater than 140/90 mmHg. The great majority of hypertension simply occurs as we grow older, a condition known as essential hypertension. Rarely, other diseases may cause high blood pressure. Because high blood pressure usually does not cause any symptoms until the pressure is very high, routine blood pressure readings should be made every several years.

When the blood pressure is elevated for a prolonged period of time, damage to the heart, kidneys, and brain may follow. In fact, stroke, heart failure, and kidney failure are very often linked to hypertension.

If you are found to have hypertension, your physician will want to perform a complete history and physical examination, as well as several simple blood and urine tests, to evaluate the cause.

Fortunately, hypertension can usually be controlled easily with medication and lifestyle changes. Efforts such as exercise and weight loss are also helpful in managing hypertension. A wide array of safe and effective medications are now available to your physician if additional help is needed in controlling your blood pressure.

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