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National High Blood Pressure Education Month

What is high blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the force blood creates on the artery walls. Typically, blood pressure is stated using a fraction. The top number of the fraction is systolic pressure, which is the pressure on the arteries when the heart contracts. The bottom number is diastolic pressure, which is the pressure between heartbeats, when the heart is resting.

When a person’s systolic and or diastolic numbers are too high, they are “hypertensive” or have high blood pressure.

What do the numbers mean?

Normal blood pressure is defined as having a systolic blood pressure of less than 120mmHg and a diastolic blood pressure less than 80mmHg. This reading would be 120/80.

Pre-hypertension is defined as having a systolic blood pressure of 120 to 139mmHg and/or a diastolic blood pressure of 80 to 89mmHg.

Hypertension is defined as having a systolic blood pressure of more than 140mmHg and/or a diastolic blood pressure of more than 90mmHg.

Causes and treatment of high blood pressure

High blood pressure can come from a variety of sources, such as:

  • Age
  • Heredity
  • Higher body weight
  • Stress
  • Unhealthy diet

High blood pressure is known as the silent killer. A person can have high blood pressure and have few or no symptoms. For most, the only way to find out if they have it is to be tested.

Some simple ways to reduce blood pressure are:

  • Take all medications as prescribed
  • Exercise regularly
  • Limit salt intake
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Minimize alcohol use
  • Quit smoking

Find more information about high blood pressure from the American Heart Association (www.americanheart.org).

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