High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) - What You Should Know | Health 101

Health 101

What You Need to Know About Hypertension

Signs and symptoms make it easy to notice some health problems, but high blood pressure often comes with no warning signs. Many people don’t know they have it. Nicknamed the “silent killer,” high blood pressure is a major public health problem. Nearly half of U.S. adults have high blood pressure1.

What is High Blood Pressure?

There are two numbers in a blood pressure reading. The top number, or systolic, is the pressure when the heart beats. The bottom number, or diastolic, is the pressure when the heart relaxes. You have normal blood pressure if the pressure is near 120/80.


High blood pressure occurs when the pressure on your blood vessels is higher than 120/80. Your blood pressure changes throughout the day and can be influenced by many things. Therefore, your provider my want to take several readings before you get diagnosed. If left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to other conditions such as stroke, heart attack, kidney failure, and other complications. When left untreated, about half the people die of heart disease related to poor blood flow2.


Are you at risk?

There are many factors that could put you at risk for high blood pressure. Your age, race, family history (such as having diabetes), stress levels, diet, tobacco use, obesity, physical inactivity and alcohol consumption can all affect your risk. The easiest way to know if you are at risk is to measure your blood pressure regularly. You can get your blood pressure taken by a medical expert. As we age, the risk of high blood pressure rises greatly. Nearly two out of every three seniors will have high blood pressure at some point in their lives1.


How to Take a Blood Pressure Reading

Did you know that your blood pressure changes in response to mood, activity or body position? Simple things can cause blood pressure to change quickly between 5 and 40mm Hg. Ensure your readings are accurate by following these tips:

  • Blood pressure cuff should be placed directly on your arm
  • Rest for 3-5 minutes before taking the reading
  • Sit in a comfortable chair with arm, back and feet supported
  • Think of something calming to minimize stress or anxiety
  • Do not talk while doctor is taking your blood pressure
  • Do not smoke 30 minutes before your reading
  • Do not drink alcohol, soda, tea or coffee 30 minutes before your reading
  • Listen to your doctor’s instructions on medication


How to Understand your Blood Pressure Levels

To help keep your blood pressure in check, understand blood pressure readings, its terms and levels.

As mentioned, a blood pressure reading comprises two numbers:

  • Systolic Pressure: How much pressure the blood is exerting against the walls of the artery when your heart beats (top number).
  • Diastolic Pressure: How much pressure the blood is exerting against the walls of the artery when your heart rests between beats (bottom number).

Blood pressure levels include:

  • Low: Usually recognized at 90/60 or lower.
  • Normal: Usually recognized as 120/80.
  • Elevated: Having a systolic reading of 120 to 129 and a diastolic reading less than 80 means you are in the “elevated” category. If this is you, talk to your healthcare provider about whether starting to make lifestyle changes is right for you.
  • Stage 1 Hypertension: Stage 1 means you have a systolic range of 130 to 139 and a diastolic range of 80 to 89. If you’ve been making lifestyle changes for a while, but haven’t reached your blood pressure goal, see your doctor.
  • Stage 2 Hypertension: A systolic pressure of 140 or higher and a diastolic pressure of 90 or higher is considered stage 2 hypertension. See your doctor. He or she may be able to offer medications that can help. Also, if you haven’t made lifestyle changes yet, start today. These can include exercising regularly, quitting smoking and  eating a high-protein, low-fat diet.4


Even if you have high blood pressure, there is hope. With proper treatment and management, your blood pressure can be controlled and you can live a long and healthy life.

  1. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/GettheFactsAboutHighBloodPressure/The-Facts-About-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_002050_Article.jsp#.W1o35tJKjIU
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/in-depth/high-blood-pressure/art-20045868
  3. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2005/0201/p469.html
  4. http://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/understanding-blood-pressure-readings

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