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Heart Health

Keep Your Heart Healthy by Managing Your Blood Pressure

When it comes to keeping your heart healthy, managing your blood pressure can help you reach that goal.  As one of Life’s Simple 7, keeping your blood pressure in a healthy range reduces your risk for heart attack and stroke. 

Follow these steps to get started on the pathway to lower blood pressure and better heart health!

Learn Why It Is Important.

Take Action to Be Healthy.

Know Your Numbers.

Talk with Your Doctor.

Know Your Family Heart History.

 


Learn Why It Is Important.

High blood pressure (HBP) is a serious condition that can lead to:

"Blood pressure" is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps blood. If this pressure rises and stays high over time, it can damage the body in many ways

High blood pressure is called a common "silent killer" because it often does not have any signs or symptoms. Some people may have high blood pressure but not even know it. That is why it is important to check your blood pressure regularly and to take steps to keep a normal blood pressure or lower your blood pressure if it reaches unsafe levels. 

If you have diabetes, you should be especially concerned about keeping your blood pressure in a healthy range. High blood pressure is the leading cause of early death among people with diabetes. Sadly, at least 65 percent of people with diabetes die from some form of heart disease, commonly heart attack or stroke.


Take Action to Be Healthy.

You can make lifestyle changes to help keep your blood pressure within a healthy range:

In addition, if you already have high blood pressure:

Keep your doctor, nurse, pharmacist, or other health care provider informed of your blood pressure readings that you take at home.

 


Know Your Numbers.

Knowing your blood pressure numbers is important, even when you are feeling fine.  If your blood pressure is normal, you can work with your health care team to keep it that way.  If your blood pressure is too high, treatment may help prevent damage to your body's organs.

 

Blood Pressure Numbers

Blood pressure is measured as systolic (sis-TOL-ik) and diastolic (di-ah-STOL-ik) pressures.  "Systolic" refers to blood pressure when the heart beats while pumping blood.  "Diastolic" refers to blood pressure when the heart is at rest between beats.

You most often will see blood pressure numbers written with the systolic number above or before the diastolic number, such as 120/80 mmHg.  The mmHg is millimeters of mercury—the units used to measure blood pressure.

The table below shows normal blood pressure numbers for adults.  It also shows which numbers put you at greater risk for health problems.

 

Categories for Blood Pressure Levels in Adults (measured in millimeters of mercury, or mmHg)

Category

Systolic
(top number)

 

Diastolic
(bottom number)

Normal

Less than 120

And

Less than 80

Pre-hypertension

120–139

Or

80–89

High blood pressure

 

 

 

     Stage 1

140–159

Or

90–99

     Stage 2

160 or higher

Or

100 or higher

The ranges in the table apply to most adults (aged 18 and older) who do not have short-term serious illnesses.  In most people, a blood pressure of 120/80mm Hg is considered optimal.

Blood pressure does not stay the same all the time.  It lowers as you sleep and rises when you wake up.  Blood pressure also rises when you are:

If your numbers stay above normal most of the time, you are at risk for health problems.  The risk grows as blood pressure numbers rise.  "Prehypertension" means you may end up with high blood pressure (HBP), unless you take steps to prevent it.

If you are being treated for HBP and have repeat readings in the normal range, your blood pressure is under control.  However, you still have the condition.  You should see your doctor and follow your treatment plan to keep your blood pressure under control.

Your systolic and diastolic numbers may not be in the same blood pressure category.  In this case, the more severe category is the one you are in.  For example, if your systolic number is 160 and your diastolic number is 80, you have stage 2 HBP.  If your systolic number is 120 and your diastolic number is 95, you have stage 1 HBP.

If you have diabetes or chronic kidney disease, HBP is defined as 130/80 mmHg or higher.  HBP numbers also differ for children and teens.  For more information, go to "How Is High Blood Pressure Diagnosed?"

 


Talk with Your Doctor.

Questions To Ask Your Doctor if You Have High Blood Pressure

And because diseases of the heart and blood vessels can run in families, knowing your family history can provide important information about your health risks. By talking to your doctor about your family heart health history, together you can look for ways to lower your risk of heart disease.

To learn how to create a heart health family tree, please visit Know Your Family Heart Health History

 


Know Your Family Heart History.

Knowledge is one of your strongest weapons against heart disease.  Learn as much as you can about healthy living to keep your heart strong.

And because diseases of the heart and blood vessels can run in families, knowing your family history can provide important information about your health risks.  Talk to your family about their heart health history.  To learn how to create a heart health family tree, please visit Know Your Family Heart Health History.  

By talking to your doctor about your family heart health history, together you can look for ways to lower your risk of heart disease.

 


Points to Remember:

 

Hope Through Research - You Can Be Part of the Answer!

Many research studies are underway to help us learn about heart disease. Would you like to find out more about being part of this exciting research? Please visit the following links:

Sources:

Cardiovascular Disease and Diabetics (American Heart Association)

High Blood Pressure (American Diabetes Association)

Manage Your Blood Pressure (American Heart Association)

Your Guide to Lowering High Blood Pressure  (NHLBI)

What is High Blood Pressure? (NHLBI)

 

For more information:

Go to the Heart Health health topic, where you can:

Last Reviewed: Apr 24, 2014