Health Topic

High Blood Pressure

Nearly 50% of adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure. Yet only about half of those with high blood pressure have taken steps to get it under control. It can increase your risk for heart disease, heart failure and stroke. Prolonged high blood pressure can also damage your kidneys, liver and blood vessels. The good news is that there are steps you can take to help manage your blood pressure.

A clinician takes a woman’s blood pressure.

Understanding High Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is the measure of force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries as the heart pumps blood throughout your body. You are considered to have high blood pressure when this force (or pressure) is consistently elevated.

The silent killer.

Many people with high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) don’t even know they have it until their doctor tells them or they’ve experienced a complication such as a stroke. That’s because high blood pressure develops slowly over time and rarely shows symptoms. For this reason, it’s sometimes called, “The Silent Killer.”

Know your numbers.

Blood pressure readings are made up of two numbers expressed as a fraction. The top number is your systolic pressure (the force as your heart beats). The bottom number is your diastolic pressure (the force as your heart relaxes). Generally, a reading of less than 120/80 is considered to be normal blood pressure. It’s important to discuss your target blood pressure range with your doctor. Knowing this range can help you monitor your blood pressure more effectively at home.

Measuring your blood pressure at home is easy. It’s also a great way to monitor your health. If you don’t have a blood pressure monitor at home, there are often free monitors available at grocery stores, pharmacies, and gyms.

Tips for monitoring your blood pressure at home:

  • Sit at a table or desk with your blood pressure monitor.
  • Roll up your shirt sleeve.
  • Wrap the cuff mid-arm (above elbow) at heart level.
  • Keep your arm relaxed and supported, with the palm facing up.
  • Keep a relaxed position with legs uncrossed, feet flat on the floor and back supported.

Steps to Help Manage Your Blood Pressure

There are many things you can do to help prevent or manage high blood pressure. Think about which steps you’re ready to take today.

Could you cut back on salt and sugar?

Eating healthy foods and getting the recommended daily nutrition is an important part of maintaining healthy blood pressure. Eating unhealthy food is like taking the wrong medication. A good way to prevent (and manage) high blood pressure is to avoid meals and snacks that are loaded with salt and sugar. This means cutting back on things like chips, lunch meats, bacon, and soft drinks.

Try limiting your sodium to 1,500 milligrams a day. This may sound like a lot, but it’s actually not.

Could you be a little more active each day?

Extra body weight increases your heart’s workload (which also increases blood pressure). Try staying active in order to maintain a healthy weight. Join fitness classes, go on daily walks or try stretching every morning. Even the small things can make a really big difference.

Can you avoid tobacco?

Tobacco use instantly raises your blood pressure and damages your artery walls. If you currently have a tobacco habit, quitting is a great way to lower your risk of high blood pressure.

Word scramble

High Blood Pressure Knowledge Check

What’s another name for high blood pressure? What can temporarily raise your blood pressure? Unscramble the answers to questions like these.

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