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About High Blood Pressure
In 2021, 29.5% of Minnesota adults reported that their doctor or another health professional told them they have high blood pressure. This affects more than 1.2 million people.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a condition in which the pressure of the blood against blood vessel walls is too strong.
When left untreated, high blood pressure can cause damage to the vessels and lead to other problems, including heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease.
Blood pressure is measured using two numbers. The first number, called systolic blood pressure, is the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats. The second number, called diastolic blood pressure, is the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart rests between beats.
High blood pressure usually does not have symptoms. Make sure to get your blood pressure checked regularly and follow the recommendations from your health care team.
What does your blood pressure reading mean?
- Normal blood pressure: systolic less than 120 and diastolic less than 80
- Prehypertension: systolic of 120 to 139 or diastolic of 80 to 89
- High blood pressure (hypertension): systolic of 140 or higher or diastolic of 90 or higher 1
- Your blood pressure can change with activity, posture, movement, and other factors. It is important to take your blood pressure after rest in a sitting position.
- A single high reading does not mean that you have high blood pressure, but if your numbers stay high over time, your health care provider may recommend a treatment program.
- Unusually low blood pressure should also be checked by your health care provider.
- Note: The American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology released new guidelines for hypertension in 2017. These new guidelines have not been fully adopted, but there is wide agreement that blood pressures in the normal range are preferred. Your physician can best help you decide if you have high blood pressure.
Preventing and Managing High Blood Pressure
If you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, talk to your health care team about ways to control your blood pressure. There are some risk factors that increase your chances of having high blood pressure. Some things you can’t control like sex, age, race, and family history. However, there are things you can do to prevent high blood pressure or steps you can take to control high blood pressure.
Monitor your blood pressure
The only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to have it checked regularly. If you have high blood pressure, your health care provider should check your blood pressure during every visit.
Your health care provider may also recommend you measure your blood pressure at home. Learn more below about how to get the most accurate readings at home.
- Validation means making sure something is accurate.
- Validated blood pressure machines have been tested by several parties and have been shown to check blood pressure correctly.
- Validation gives correct blood pressure readings making sure you and your doctor are making the best treatment decisions.
- Find a list of validated monitors:
- It is very important to have the correct size cuff when checking blood pressures. Using a wrong size cuff may not give you a correct reading.
- Choose upper arm machines instead of wrist or finger reading machines.
- Use a soft tape measure to find the correct size. If you need help to get this measurement, ask your doctor’s office.
- Make sure you check the cuff sizes on the list of validated monitors to make sure it is the right one for you. Every company uses different size guidelines, so it is important to look for the centimeter (cm) number listed.
- Example: Medium: 23.8-36 cm; Large: 36-45 cm
- Take your blood pressure monitor with you to your next appointment. Compare the reading you get on your monitor to the clinic's monitor.
- Ask your health care provider how to use the measurements you take at home.
Find a list of validated home blood pressure monitors:
To learn more, visit American Heart Association: Monitoring Your Blood Pressure at Home.
Set a goal
Discuss strategies for reaching your blood pressure goal with your provider or pharmacist and create a plan. The American Heart Association has resources to manage your blood pressure, including the AHA: My Blood Pressure Log (PDF) or the AHA: Check. Change. Control. Calculator online tracker.
Make healthy lifestyle changes
Eating a healthier diet, increasing physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, not using commercial tobacco, and reducing your intake of alcohol are all strategies that may help to reduce blood pressure. Visit the Minnesota QUITPARTNER or call 1-800-QUIT-NOW (784-8669) for tools and support to quit tobacco.
Take medication as prescribed
Your health care provider may recommend medications to control high blood pressure, such as diuretics, beta blockers, vasodilators, ACE inhibitors, or calcium channel blockers. It can take some fine tuning to find the right dose and combination of medications to lower blood pressure effectively.
1 2014 Evidence-Based Guideline for the Management of High Blood Pressure in Adults. Online at: https://sites.jamanetwork/com/jnc8/index.html.
2 2017 ACC/AHA/AAPA/ABC/ACPMAGS/APhA/ASH/ASPC/NMA/PCNA Guideline for the Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Management of High Blood Pressure in Adults. Online at: https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1161/HYP.0000000000000065.