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All About Blood Pressure

April 15, 2023

What is Blood Pressure? It is the force of blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels that carry the blood from your heart to your vital body parts, like the brain and the kidneys.

What do the numbers mean? Blood pressure is measured using two numbers: The top number is called systolic pressure and it checks the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart is pumping. The bottom number is called diastolic pressure and it checks the pressure when your heart is relaxed between the beats.  If your blood pressure machine reads 130 systolic and 90 diastolic, you would say, “130 over 90.” Normal blood pressure is less than 120 over 80.

What is high blood pressure? High blood pressure means you have an average blood pressure that is higher than normal. It is also called hypertension. Blood pressure can change throughout the day based on your activities. Hypertension can run in families. Hypertension puts you at more risk of having other health problems, such as heart disease, kidney disease, heart attack, and stroke.

How common is hypertension? In the United States nearly half the adults (116 million) have hypertension, described as a systolic pressure greater than 130 mmHg or a diastolic pressure greater than 80 mmHg or are taking medication for hypertension.

What increases my risk for high blood pressure? Factors that can increase your risk of high blood pressure include health conditions, like diabetes or borderline blood pressure, your lifestyle, including unhealthy diets that includes too much salt, physical inactivity, too much alcohol, tobacco use, and being overweight or obese.  In addition, your family history can contribute to the risk.

What are the warning signs of high blood pressure? Having a family history puts you at risk. High blood pressure usually has no warning signs or symptoms, and many people do not know they have it, unless they have it checked, or some damage happens to their vital body parts. That’s why hypertension is called the “silent killer”. Checking your blood pressure is the only way to know whether you have high blood pressure.

What problems does hypertension cause? Having high blood pressure for a long time can damage your body parts and affect your health in many ways. It can seriously hurt important organs like your kidneys, heart, brain, and eyes. It worsens chronic kidney disease, puts you at risk of a heart attack or hear failure, bleeding in your brain, or damaging your eyesight.

What can I do to prevent or manage high blood pressure? Lifestyle changes play a big role. Things like not smoking, eating a healthy diet by limiting salt and alcohol, getting at least 150 minutes of exercise, and increased physical activity each week (about 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week), and managing stress through relaxation, meditation and yoga play an important part.

In addition to making positive lifestyle changes, you may need to take medications to manage your blood pressure. Learn more about medicines for hypertension.

Measure Your Blood Pressure on a Regular Basis. Measuring your blood pressure is an important step toward controlling blood pressure and staying healthy.  Use a diary or a blood pressure log to write down your measurements to bring to your appointments.

Talk with your doctor if you think you need more help controlling your blood pressure. By taking action to lower your blood pressure, you can help protect yourself against kidney disease, heart disease and stroke.  

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