What is Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of arteries. Blood pressure is recorded as two numbers – the systolic pressure (as the heart beats) and the diastolic pressure (as the heart relaxes between beats). The numbers are written one above (or before) the other, with the systolic number on top and the diastolic number on the bottom. For example, a blood pressure measurement of 120/80 mm HG (millimeters of mercury) is expressed verbally as “120 over 80.”
Normal/optimal blood pressure: less than 120 mm Hg systolic and less than 80 mm Hg diastolic
Prehypertensive blood pressure: 120-139 mm Hg systolic and 80-89 diastolic. This blood pressure represents a significant increase in risk for cardiovascular disease.
High Blood Pressure Detection
You can find out if you have high blood pressure by having your blood pressure checked regularly. Most doctors will diagnose a person with high blood pressure on the basis of two or more readings, taken on several occasions. A consistent blood pressure reading of 140/90 mm Hg or higher is considered high blood pressure, another term for hypertension.
Some people experience high blood pressure only when they visit the doctor’s office. This condition is called “white-coat hypertension.” If your doctor suspects this, you may be asked to monitor your high blood pressure at home or asked to wear an ambulatory blood pressure monitor. This device is usually worn for 24 hours and can take blood pressure every 30 minutes.
You can take steps to prevent high blood pressure by adopting a healthy lifestyle. These steps include:
- Following a healthy eating pattern that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods.
- Reducing salt and sodium in your diet.
- Maintaining a healthy weight.
- Being physically active.
- Limiting alcohol intake.
- Quitting smoking.
Treatment of High Blood Pressure
It is important to take steps to keep your blood pressure under control. The treatment goal is blood pressure below 140/90 and lower for people with other conditions, such as diabetes and kidney disease. Adopting healthy lifestyle habits is an effective first step in both preventing and controlling high blood pressure. If lifestyle changes alone are not effective in keeping your blood pressure controlled, it may be necessary to add blood pressure medications.