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What is high blood pressure?

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Normal arteries are smooth and flexible, and blood flows easily through them. As the blood moves through the arteries, it puts pressure on the artery walls. This is your blood pressure. High blood pressure (also called hypertension) occurs when your blood moves through your arteries at a higher pressure than normal.

Test your knowledge about high blood pressure.

What is a “normal” blood pressure?

Your blood pressure is too high if it measures 140/90 (140 over 90) or higher most of the time. The top number is the pressure of blood against the artery walls during a heartbeat (systolic). The bottom number is the pressure of blood against artery walls between heartbeats (diastolic).

  Normal Pre-hypertensive Too high
Top (Systolic) Below 120 120 - 139 140 or Higher
Bottom (Diastolic) Below 80 80 - 89 90 or Higher

What do I need to do?

If your blood pressure is too high, work with your doctor on a plan for lowering it. Below are steps you can take that will help lower your blood pressure.

  • Choose heart-healthy foods: Eating healthier meals helps you control your blood pressure. Ask your doctor about the DASH eating plan. This plan helps reduce blood pressure.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight makes you more likely to have high blood pressure. Losing excess weight helps lower blood pressure.

When and how often should I be screened for high blood pressure?

If your blood pressure is below 120/80 mm Hg, be sure to get it checked at least once every two years, starting at age 20. If your blood pressure is higher, your doctor may want to check it more often. Women have a higher risk of high blood pressure than men, and African-American adults of all ages have a higher-than-average risk. If you don’t have a physician to provide consultation, you can access our online directory.