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High Blood Pressure Education Month
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is often called “the silent killer” because it has no symptoms. About one in every three adults in the U.S. - 70 million people – have high blood pressure. Only about half of them have their blood pressure under control. High blood pressure is a primary or contributing factor in nearly 1,000 deaths in the U.S. every day. It’s linked to a linked to a range of life-threatening conditions and diseases, including heart attack, stroke, congestive heart failure, atherosclerosis, peripheral artery disease, and kidney damage.
 
What the numbers mean
Your BP reading consists of two numbers: systolic and diastolic. The systolic number is the higher one which measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats. The lower diastolic number measures the pressure in between beats. A normal, healthy blood pressure should be less than 120 for systolic and less than 80 for diastolic. Higher BPs fall into these ranges:
 
Prehypertension: 120 to 139 / 80 to 89
Stage 1 hypertension: 140 to 159 / 90 to 99
Stage 2 hypertension: 160 or higher / 100 or higher
 
BP rates higher than 180/110 indicates a hypertensive crisis needing emergency care.
 
Risk factors
Some risk factors, such as age and genetics, are out of your control. But blood pressure is also affected by lifestyle factors including diet and activity levels. Factors that can help you achieve and maintain a healthy blood pressure includes:
  • A healthy diet, which may include reducing your sodium intake
  • Regular physical activity
  • Learning to manage stress
  • Avoiding tobacco smoke
  • Limiting alcohol consumption
  • Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight
If lifestyle changes alone don’t bring your blood pressure into a healthy range, you may be prescribed medication. Medication should not be seen as a substitute for lifestyles changes, but an additional factor in your overall blood pressure management plan.