What is high blood pressure (hypertension)?

Blood pressure (BP) is the force of blood flowing through your blood vessels. High BP, or hypertension, means the force, or pressure, of the blood flow in your vessels is consistently too high.

What causes high BP?

The causes of high BP aren’t exactly known. There aren’t usually any signs or symptoms of high BP. Left untreated, high BP can cause severe damage to your circulatory system and can lead to heart attack, stroke, and other serious health problems. But high BP can be managed with medicine and certain lifestyle choices.

How can I manage my high blood pressure?1

There are some simple steps you can take to control your high BP.

  • 1. Know your goal

    Blood pressure is measured using 2 numbers. The Systolic number (the upper number) is a measure of your blood pressure while your heart is beating. The Diastolic number (the lower number) is the measure of your blood pressure between beats while your heart is resting. Together the 2 numbers are shown as 11878 or spoken as “118 over 78.”

    Your doctor has probably given you a BP goal to work toward. Try writing it down as a visual reminder as you work toward it.

  • 2. Check often

    High BP doesn’t usually have any signs or symptoms, so it’s important to check your BP regularly. Home monitoring can help you keep track of your BP over time, so you and your doctor can see if your treatment plan is working. Home monitoring is not a substitute for regular visits to your doctor.

  • 3. Take your medication

    If your doctor has prescribed medication, take it exactly as prescribed. Continue taking your medicine even if you reach your BP goal set by your doctor.

  • 4. Change for the better

    Certain lifestyle changes can help you lower your BP. Work with your doctor. A few small changes over time could help lower numbers and improve your overall health.

    Maintain a healthy body weight.
    Talk with your doctor about what a healthy weight is for you.

    Eat healthy foods.
    Think more fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, and less saturated and total fat.

    Reduce your sodium (salt) intake.
    Staying under 1,500 mg/day is associated with reductions in BP.

    Get active.
    Work toward 40 minutes of moderate physical activity 3-4 days per week.

    Limit alcohol.
    For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger.

  1. Changes You Can Make to Manage High Blood Pressure, 2017. American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/changes-you-can-make-to-manage-high-blood-pressure. Accessed November 30. 2018