Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls. High blood pressure (HBP) means the pressure in your arteries is higher than it should be. Another name for high blood pressure is hypertension.
Blood pressure is written as two numbers, such as 112/78 mm Hg. The top, systolic, number is the pressure when the heart beats. The bottom, diastolic, number is the pressure when the heart rests between beats. Normal blood pressure is below 120/80 mm Hg.
If you’re an adult and your systolic pressure is 120 to 139, or your diastolic pressure is 80 to 89 (or both), you have “prehypertension.” High blood pressure is a pressure of 140 systolic or higher and/or 90 diastolic or higher that stays high over time.
No one knows exactly what causes most cases of high blood pressure. It can’t be cured, but it can be managed. High blood pressure usually has no signs or symptoms. That’s why it is so dangerous.
Make sure you get your blood pressure checked regularly and treat it the way your doctor advises.
What can untreated high blood pressure lead to?
- Heart attack, angina or both
- Heart failure
- Peripheral arterial disease (PAD)
What can I do about it?
- Reach and maintain a healthy weight.
- Eat healthy meals low in saturated fat, trans fat, sodium (salt) and added sugars.
- Limit alcohol to no more than one drink per day for women or two drinks a day for men.
- Be more physically active. If you have high blood pressure, aim for at least 40 minutes of moderate- intensity physical activity at least 3 to 4 times a week.
How can medicine help?
Some medicines, such as vasodilators, help relax and open up your blood vessels so blood can flow through better. A diuretic can help keep your body from holding too much water and salt. Other medicines help your heart beat more slowly and with less force.