High Blood Pressure
- High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a condition in which the pressure of the blood against blood vessel walls is too strong.
- 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.
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.
Preventing and Managing High Blood Pressure
Know your numbers: The only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to have it checked regularly. If you have high blood pressure, your healthcare provider should check your blood pressure during every visit. Talk to your provider and learn more from American Heart Association about 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 using a log or online tracker.
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.
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 The 2014 JNC 8 and 2017 AHA/ACC Guidelines for Management of High Blood Pressure in Adults. Online at: https://sites.jamanetwork/com/jnc8/index.html.