Know Your Numbers

Do you have hypertension, or high blood pressure? Many people may not know they have the condition because it often has no symptoms. You can’t be sure without regular screenings. You should have your blood pressure measured at least once a year–more often if you are at increased risk for the condition. Check the table below to find out whether your reading is normal–or requires lifestyle changes and/or medical attention.

Blood Pressure Category Systolic mm Hg (upper number) Diastolic mm Hg (lower number)
NORMAL LESS THAN 120 and LESS THAN 80
ELEVATED 120-129 and LESS THAN 80
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE (Hypertension) Stage 1 130-139 or 80-90
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE (Hypertension) Stage 2 140 OR HIGHER or 90 OR HIGHER
HYPERTENSIVE CRISIS (consult your doctor immediately) HIGHER THAN 180 and/or HIGHER THAN 120

Of course, your doctor can advise you on what your numbers mean and the best course of treatment, if necessary, but in general, here is what each category means:

NORMAL

Keep up the good work!

ELEVATED

Lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, reducing sodium, caffeine and alcohol intake, exercising, maintaining a healthy weight and managing stress can all help lower blood pressure.

HYPERTENSION STAGE 1

Your doctor will typically recommend the lifestyle changes mentioned above as well as prescribe blood pressure medication to help manage your condition.

HYPERTENSION STAGE 2

If your blood pressure consistently measures 140/90 or higher, your doctor will likely prescribe a combination of blood pressure medications along with lifestyle changes.

HYPERTENSIVE CRISIS

If your blood pressure reading suddenly exceeds 180/120, you may be experiencing a hypertensive crisis and require immediate medical attention. Wait five minutes and test again. If your reading is still unusually high, contact your doctor immediately. If your blood pressure is higher than 180/120 and you are experiencing chest pain, shortness of breath, back pain, numbness/weakness, change in vision or difficulty speaking, do not wait to see if your pressure comes down on its own. This is a medical emergency. Call 9-1-1.

Know Your Risk

Risk factors include a family history of hypertension, excess weight, smoking, lack of exercise and Type 2 diabetes. These increase your chances of developing hypertension, which can lead to cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke.

Know What You Can Do Now to Protect Your Health!

Lifestyle changes aren’t easy, but they’re not impossible, either. And the payoff is worth it. For instance, losing weight can lower your risk of developing hypertension–or help control it if you have it. Even if your progress is slow, adding more fruits, vegetables and lean proteins to your diet, eating smaller portions and cutting back on sodium and sugar can boost your nutrition and–combined with regular exercise like walking–can help you maintain a healthy weight. Just remember to talk to your doctor before starting any new eating plan or exercise routine.

Healthy Living Spotlight on: Hypertension

For more information, view the latest in our Healthy Living Spotlight video series: “A Healthy Lifestyle Helps Prevent Hypertension.”

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