9 Gotta-Know Facts about Your Blood Pressure

Even if you feel fine, high blood pressure can be putting your health at risk. Here’s what you need to know to stay healthier.

Keeping your blood pressure under control is one of the most important things you can do to keep your heart healthy. Here are 9 important facts about blood pressure that you need to know:

  1. A blood pressure reading includes two numbers – one on top (systolic) and the other on the bottom (diastolic). Systolic pressure indicates how much force your blood exerts against your artery walls when your heart beats. Diastolic pressure indicates how much force your blood exerts against your artery walls when your heart rests between beats.
  2. Normal blood pressure is below 120/80 mm Hg. A systolic reading of 120 – 139 or a diastolic reading of 80 – 89 indicates you have pre-hypertension. This is a higher than normal reading but not high enough to be considered high blood pressure. A systolic reading of 140 or higher or a diastolic reading of 90 or higher indicates high blood pressure.
  3. About 1 in 3 adults have high blood pressure. Most people have no symptoms and many don’t even know they have it. That’s why it’s so important for your blood pressure to be checked on a regular basis by a medical professional.
  4. The only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure tested using a pressure cuff, called a sphygmomanometer.
  5. Untreated high blood pressure increases your risk of heart attack and stroke.
  6. High blood pressure can be managed with a combination of lifestyle changes and medication.
  7. Lifestyle factors that can improve your blood pressure include losing weight if you are overweight, eating a healthy diet low in sodium, caffeine and alcohol, exercising regularly and quitting if you smoke.
  8. If your doctor prescribes medication for your high blood pressure, it’s important to take it even if you feel fine.
  9. Risk factors for high blood pressure include:
  • Age
  • Being overweight
  • Being inactive
  • Eating a poor quality diet, including too much sodium, caffeine or alcohol
  • Having other medical conditions, such as diabetes or kidney disease
  • Being African-American
  • Having a family history of high blood pressure

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Review Date: January 20, 2017
Reviewed By: Perry Pitkow, MD
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