What Is Hypertension?
Hypertension is blood pressure that is too high. As a pump, your heart creates pressure to force blood to all parts of your body. But damaged, narrowed arteries cause blood to be pumped with excessive force against the walls of the arteries, overworking the heart and arteries.
Two numbers are used to record blood pressure:
- Systolic—The top or larger number measures the pressure in your arteries while your heart beats.
- Diastolic—The bottom or smaller number measures the pressure while your heart rests between beats.
The numbers are used together to represent your blood pressure reading—such as 120/80 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury). Normal blood pressure is below this reading; pre-hypertension is between 120/80 and 139/89; and hypertension is 140/90 and higher, or 130/80 and higher if you have diabetes or kidney disease.
If your readings exceed these limits repeatedly, you have high blood pressure, or hypertension.
Knowing the RISKS
The potential harmful effects of hypertension can be prevented or reduced if it is detected early enough. But there is only one way to know if your blood pressure is high—have it checked. If your blood pressure reading is at the top of the normal range, or if you have a family history of hypertension, you’re at
higher risk. In that case, your doctor can tell you how often to have your blood pressure checked. Knowing your risk factors will help you keep the disease at bay. Some risk factors are uncontrollable, and some are controllable. The controllable factors are conditions that you, with your doctor’s help, can correct to help lower your blood pressure.
Ways to Help Lower Blood Pressure
- Avoid overweight and obesity. People with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or higher are more likely to develop hypertension.
- Reduce salt intake. Eating too much salt increases blood pressure in some people.
- Physical activity. An inactive lifestyle adds body weight and tends to make hypertension worse.