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Important Differences Between High Blood Pressure Staging & Classing

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Updated November 28, 2006

There are two different “typing” schemes doctors use when describing high blood pressure. The first, classification, conveys information about the underlying cause of the high blood pressure. The second, staging, refers to the severity of the high blood pressure itself.

The Staging System:

The system used to stage high blood pressure is very simple. Blood pressure has essentially two varieties; Stage I and Stage II. The qualifications for staging high blood pressure as either Stage I or Stage II are based simply on numbers. If average measured blood pressure is above a certain numerical cutoff point, it is staged accordingly.

Stage I Hypertension:

Stage I Hypertension refers to blood pressure with average readings that are above 140/90 but below the criteria for Stage II Hypertension. Stage I Hypertension is an early, but still important form of high blood pressure. Depending on certain lifestyle factors, doctors may choose to either begin treatment with medicine or to allow for a “grace period” during which the patient is instructed to make certain diet and activity changes in an attempt to reduce the blood pressure.

Stage II Hypertension:

Stage II Hypertension can be diagnosed via either of two numbers. A measurement of either

qualifies as Stage II Hypertension.

Treatment guidelines allow for much less flexibility in the initial approach to Stage II Hypertension, and those diagnosed at this stage are almost universally started on anti-hypertension medicines immediately. Stage II Hypertension also requires more frequent blood pressure checks and more careful monitoring.

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