High Blood Pressure

HBP. Hypertension. ‘Silent Killer’. It has many names, but it all means one thing: the force of blood flowing through your veins is consistently too high. Nearly half of all American adults have high blood pressure, but many don’t even know it. So how can you be sure your blood pressure is in a good range? Get it checked.

Diagnosing HBP

Most of the time there are no obvious symptoms, so the best way to diagnose HBP is to have it checked by your healthcare provider.

Your blood pressure is measured as two numbers:

  • Systolic blood pressure (the top number) – This shows how much pressure your blood is putting against your arteries during heartbeats.
  • Diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) – This shows how much pressure your blood is putting against your arteries when your heart is at rest between beats.

Healthy and Unhealthy Blood Pressure Ranges

Below is a chart of blood pressure ranges from the American Heart Association.

Risk Factors

With no obvious symptoms, the best ways to protect yourself against HBP is to be aware of the risks and to make the right lifestyle changes.

Common risk factors you can’t change include:

  • Family history – If your parents or other close relatives have HBP, your chance of developing HBP are increased.
  • Age – The older you are, the more likely you are to get HBP.
  • Gender – Men are more likely to develop HBP than women, until age 64. At age 65 and older, women are more likely to get HBP.
  • Race – African Americans are more susceptible to getting HBP than people of any other racial background.
  • Chronic kidney disease (CKD) – A symptom of kidney disease is HBP, which in turn, may cause further kidney damage.

Common risk factors you can change include:

  • Lack of physical activity – being too sedentary can increase your chances of developing HBP.
  • An unhealthy diet – a diet too high in sodium/salt, calories, saturated and trans fat, and sugar increases your risk of getting HBP.
  • Being overweight or obese – carrying too much weight can put strain on your heart, and subsequently increase your risk of getting HBP.
  • Drinking too much alcohol – regular, heavy drinking can lead to HBP.
  • Sleep apnea – obstructive sleep apnea may increase your risk of developing HBP.

Managing Your Blood Pressure

There is no cure for HBP, but that doesn’t mean you can’t manage it through medication and lifestyle changes. Follow these simple lifestyle changes to help keep your blood pressure in check.

  • Eat a well-balanced diet (low in salt)
  • Limit alcohol consumption
  • Get regular physical activity
  • Manage stress
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Quit smoking
  • Take your medications properly
  • Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions

By following a heart-healthy lifestyle, you can:

  • Reduce HBP
  • Prevent or delay the development of HBP
  • Enhance the effectiveness of blood pressure medications
  • Lower your risk of heart attack, stroke, heart failure, kidney damage, vision loss, and sexual dysfunction.