Did you know the American Heart Association now considers high blood pressure (hypertension) 130/80 mm Hg and higher? The optimal blood pressure for people 20 years and older is 120/80 mm Hg or lower. It is estimated that 46% of adults in the U.S. 20 years and older have hypertension. There are no warning signs or symptoms, and many people do not know they have it.1
In 2015, there were 78,862 deaths primarily attributable to high blood pressure.1 This is why it’s important to check your blood pressure regularly. You can check your blood pressure at a doctor’s office, at a pharmacy, or at home. Take steps to prevent high blood pressure or to control it if your blood pressure is already high.
You can prevent high blood pressure and lower your risk for heart disease and stroke by living a healthy lifestyle, which includes:
- Eating a healthy diet
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Getting enough physical activity
- Not smoking
- Limiting alcohol use
Eating foods low in salt (sodium) and high in potassium can lower your blood pressure. Following the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan is a healthy diet proven to help people lower their blood pressure.
Being overweight or obese increases your risk for high blood pressure. Calculate your body mass index (BMI) to find out if your weight is in a healthy range.
Being physically active can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your blood pressure. Aim for 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, like brisk walking or bicycling, every week.
Smoking raises your blood pressure and puts you at higher risk for heart attack and stroke. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease. For more information about quitting, see CDC’s smoking and tobacco use website at www.cdc.gov/tobacco.
Avoid drinking too much alcohol – it can raise your blood pressure. Men should have no more than 2 drinks per day, and women only 1. For more information, visit www.cdc.gov/alcohol.2
Work with Your Health Care Team
If you have high blood pressure, your doctor may prescribe medications and lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes are just as important as medications. Follow your doctor’s instructions and stay on your medications. Do not stop taking your medications before talking to your doctor. All drugs may have side effects, so speak to your doctor regularly.3
Know Your Numbers4
Learn what’s considered normal, as recommended by the American Heart Association. A diagnosis of high blood pressure must be confirmed with a medical professional.
American Heart Association: heart.org/bplevels
Normal blood pressure: Numbers are within the normal (optimal) range of less than 120/80 mm Hg.
Elevated blood pressure: Readings are consistently ranging from 120-129 systolic and less than 80 mm Hg diastolic. People with elevated blood pressure are likely to develop high blood pressure unless steps are taken to control it.
Hypertension Stage 1: Blood pressure is consistently ranging from 130-139 systolic or 80-89 mm Hg diastolic. At this stage of high blood pressure, doctors are likely to prescribe lifestyle changes and may consider adding blood pressure medication based on your risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD) such as heart attack or stroke.
Hypertension Stage 2: Blood pressure is consistently ranging at levels of 140/90 mm Hg or higher. At this stage of high blood pressure, doctors are likely to prescribe a combination of blood pressure medications along with lifestyle changes.
Hypertensive crisis: High blood pressure requires medical attention. If your blood pressure readings suddenly exceed 180/120 mm Hg, wait five minutes and test again. If your readings are still unusually high, contact your doctor immediately. You could be experiencing a hypertensive crisis. If your blood pressure is higher than 180/120 mm Hg and you are experiencing signs of possible organ damage such as chest pain, shortness of breath, back pain, numbness/weakness, change in vision, difficulty speaking, do not wait to see if your pressure comes down on its own. Call 9-1-1.
6 Simple Tips to Reduce Your Blood Pressure
- Lose weight. The most effective way of reducing elevated blood pressure is by losing weight. Even losing as little as 10 pounds can lower your blood pressure.
- Read labels. Aim for less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium daily – which is just 3/4 of a teaspoon of salt. Beware of the “salty six”: Breads and rolls, Cold cuts and cured meats, Pizza, Poultry, Soup, and Sandwiches.
- Get moving. Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity a day for at least five days a week. Whether it’s dancing, jogging, biking or walking – Do something you enjoy, and stick with it!
- Pump some iron. Add some weight lifting to your exercise regimen to increase muscle, help lose weight, and stay fit.
- Limit alcohol. Limit alcohol to 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men. Alcohol can increase your blood pressure.
- Relieve stress. Stress hormones constrict your blood vessels and can lead to temporary spikes in blood pressure. Stress can trigger unhealthy habits like overeating, poor sleep, and misusing drugs and alcohol. Reducing stress should be a priority to lower your blood pressure.5