High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a disease. Even though it typically has no symptoms, high blood pressure (HBP) can have deadly health consequences if not treated. About 80 million U.S. adults have been diagnosed with high blood pressure. Your blood pressure is recorded as two numbers. The systolic number (the upper number), tells how much pressure blood is exerting against your artery walls while the heart is pumping blood. The diastolic pressure (the lower number), tells how much pressure blood is exerting against the artery walls while the heart is resting between beats. A healthy blood pressure is below 120/80 mm Hg.
In most cases the cause of high blood pressure is unknown. In fact, high blood pressure usually doesn’t have symptoms. This is why it is sometimes called the “silent killer”.
Risk factors fall into two categories: those you can control, and those that are out of your control. Factors that are outside of your control include family history, age, gender and race. Controllable factors include lack of physical activity, an unhealthy diet especially high in sodium, overweight and obesity, and drinking too much alcohol. Although still uncertain, smoking, stress and sleep apnea may contribute to HBP.
Monitoring, Treating and Managing HBP
Eating healthy (DASH diet), physical activity, maintaining a healthy weight, reducing stress, limiting alcohol, and avoiding smoking can reduce the risk of HBP. Use a certified home blood measure monitor to track blood pressure readings. Home monitoring can reduce false readings, which happen when temporary factors affect blood pressure and can give a reliable picture to your health care provider. If prescribed medication to control blood pressure, follow the dosage instructions and do not stop taking your medication or alter dosage without talking with your healthcare provider.
Visit The American Heart Association's risk calculator