High blood pressure (HBP) is a serious condition that can lead to coronary heart disease, heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, and other health problems.
"Blood pressure" is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps blood. If this pressure rises and stays high over time, it can damage the body in many ways.
Blood Pressure Numbers
Blood pressure is measured as systolic (sis-TOL-ik) and diastolic (di-ah-STOL-ik) pressures. "Systolic" refers to blood pressure when the heart beats while pumping blood. "Diastolic" refers to blood pressure when the heart is at rest between beats.
You most often will see blood pressure numbers written with the systolic number above or before the diastolic number, such as 120/80 mmHg. (The mmHg is millimeters of mercury—the units used to measure blood pressure.)
The table below shows normal blood pressure numbers for adults. It also shows which numbers put you at greater risk for health problems.
Categories for Blood Pressure Levels in Adults (measured in millimeters of mercury, or mmHg)
The ranges in the table apply to most adults (aged 18 and older) who don't have short-term serious illnesses.
Blood pressure doesn't stay the same all the time. It lowers as you sleep and rises when you wake up. Blood pressure also rises when you're excited, nervous, or active. If your numbers stay above normal most of the time, you're at risk for health problems. The risk grows as blood pressure numbers rise. "Prehypertension" means you may end up with HBP, unless you take steps to prevent it.
If you're being treated for HBP and have repeat readings in the normal range, your blood pressure is under control. However, you still have the condition. You should see your doctor and follow your treatment plan to keep your blood pressure under control.
Ten Tips To Help You Control Your High Blood Pressure
1. Make sure your blood pressure is under 140/90 mm Hg. If your systolic pressure (the top number) is over 140, ask your doctor what you can do to lower it.
2. Take your high blood pressure medicine, if prescribed, every day. If you have questions, talk to your doctor.
3. Aim for a healthy weight. If you are overweight or obese, carrying this extra weight increases your risk of high blood pressure. One way to determine if you need to lose weight is to find out your body mass index or BMI. If your BMI is above the healthy range (i.e., 25 or greater), or if your waist measurement is greater than 35 inches (women) or 40 inches (men) you probably have excess abdominal weight and you may benefit from weight loss especially if you have other risk factors. Talk to your doctor to see if you are at increased risk for high blood pressure and need to lose weight.
4. Increase your physical activity. Do at least 30 minutes of moderate activity, such as walking, most days of the week. You can do 30 minutes in three 10-minute segments.
5. Choose foods low in salt and sodium. Most Americans should consume no more than 2.4 grams (2,400 milligrams) of sodium a day. That equals 6 grams, about one teaspoon of table salt a day. For someone with high blood pressure, the doctor may advise less.
6. Read nutrition labels. Almost all packaged foods contain sodium. Every time you prepare or eat a packaged food, know how much sodium is in one serving.
7. Keep a sodium diary. You may be surprised at how much sodium you consume each day and the diary will help you decide which foods to decrease or eliminate.
8. Use spices and herbs instead of salt to season the food you prepare at home.
9. Eat more fruits, vegetables, grains, and low-fat dairy foods.
10. If you consume alcohol , consume moderate amount or restrict...