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Copyright 2017 Davis Square Family Practice
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260 Elm Street #105
Somerville, MA 02144
(617) 666-9577
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Davis Square Family Practice
Office Hours
Monday - Thursday
8am to 6pm
8am - 5pm
Deborah Bershel, MD
Michelle Clark, NP
Carmen Phillips, NP
"Call our office to receive logon credentials."
Barbara Kaplan, LICSW
Andrea Dandridge, NP
High Blood Pressure
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What is high blood pressure?

It is when the force that the blood exerts against the blood vessel wall is too high. It is also called hypertension.

How is blood pressure measured?

It is measured by using a cuff that goes around the upper arm and a mercury column or pressure dial. As the cuff is filled with air, it tightens around the arm and blocks the flow of blood through the main artery. As the air is slowly released from the cuff, the person taking the blood pressure listens to the blood as it flows back into the artery. One sound is the highest force against the blood vessel walls and is called systolic pressure. The second or lower number is the lower force against the blood vessel wall and is called diastolic pressure - the pressure that exists when your heart is at rest.

How is blood pressure recorded?

The systolic pressure is written first, then a /, then the diastolic pressure, e.g. 120/85.

What is the normal blood pressure?

Everyone’s blood pressure varies during the day. It also rises slowly as we get older. The normal blood pressure should be 120/80. There is evidence that the lower the blood pressure the better it is for the long-term risk of stroke and heart disease.

What are the symptoms of high blood pressure?

High blood pressure has been called the “silent disease” because many times there are no symptoms. That is why it is so dangerous - just because you are free of symptoms doesn’t mean that you are not at risk for long-term problems. On the other hand, rarely is a short-term elevation of blood pressure an emergency even if it is as high as 180 systolic (unless you have known significant heart disease).

What causes high blood pressure?

Most persons do not have an exact cause for their high blood pressure. This common type of hypertension is called primary or essential. In a small number of persons a cause such as kidney disease can be found. This type is known as secondary hypertension.

Are there any factors that make it more likely that you will get high blood pressure?

These factors make it more likely that you will get high blood pressure:

1.If there is a family history of high blood pressure at an early age.
2.If you are overweight
3.Excessive drinking - especially binge drinking
4.Cigarette smoking
5.Certain drugs - such as birth control pills, and some (but not most) antidepressants
6.Stress or tension (while itself a risk factor for heart attack) IS NOT a cause of hypertension

Is high blood pressure very harmful?

Yes, if not properly treated, high blood pressure can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and kidney damage.

What is the treatment?

Your doctor to reduce blood pressure can prescribe drugs. Often it may require more then one drug to control blood pressure. It is very important that you always take your drugs just as prescribed. Never increase, decrease, or stop your medicine without your doctor’s advice.

How can I help control my high blood pressure?

You can do the following things to help control your high blood pressure:

The DASH diet has been shown to be as effective as medication to lower blood pressure but   it is a challenging diet. Go to this NIH link for more info

A 2008 large study of women shoed that eating 1 oz of soy per day would lower blood pressure. That is the equivalent of ¼ cup of dried soy nuts.
1.If you smoke, stop smoking. 
2. Avoid excess salt in your food. 
3. Do not use alcohol to excess. 
4. If you’re overweight, lose weight
5. Get regular exercise.

Will I always have to take medicine?

It is possible that you will always have to take medication for your high blood pressure. But, as there are a wide variety of medications out there to treat hypertension, we should be able to treat it and not cause undue side effects.

Here is a link to a website that has evaluated various blood pressure cuffs for accuracy:


last screened and updated by Dr. Bershel on 1/2010