Health & Wellness Articles

What Is Blood Pressure?

Find Your Numbers & Learn How to Improve Them

You may have high blood pressure and not even know it. While 50 million Americans suffer from this affliction, 70 percent don’t have it under control. Another 45 million are at high risk of developing it. That’s a lot of people.

Are you one of them? You don’t have to be. High blood pressure is easily detectable and usually controllable.

What is Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is the force of blood against artery walls. It is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm HG) and recorded as two numbers—systolic (pressure on the arterial walls as the heart contracts) over diastolic (pressure on the arterial walls as the heart relaxes between beats). Both numbers are important.

The following chart will help you recognize the differences between optimal and high blood pressure.

Blood Pressure Categories for Adults
  Systolic   Diastolic
Optimal <120 mm Hg and <80 mm Hg
Normal <130 mm Hg and <85 mm Hg
High-Normal 130-139 mm Hg or 85-89 mm Hg
High Stage 1 140-159 mm Hg or 90-99 mm Hg
High Stage 2 160-179 mm Hg or
100-109 mm Hg
High Stage 3 >180 mm Hg or >110 mm Hg

Blood pressure rises and falls during the day. But when it stays elevated over time, then it is called high blood pressure (or hypertension). High blood pressure is dangerous because it makes the heart work too hard, and the force of the blood flow can harm your arteries. This is especially dangerous when coupled with other risks, such as high cholesterol. High blood pressure often has no warning signs or symptoms. If left uncontrolled, it can lead to heart and kidney disease, heart attack, and stroke.

But reducing your blood pressure by just 12 to 13 points can lower your risk of heart attack by 20 percent; stroke by 37 percent and cardiovascular death by 25 percent.

To lower your blood pressure, talk to your doctor first. Together you can start a treatment plan that will probably include lifestyle changes such as diet and exercise, stress reduction and possible medications.
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Member Comments

    Three years ago my weight was at 187. By following diet and exercise advice from The Biggest Loser website, I was able to get down to 135. Unfortunately, by not watching what I'm eating, I've gone back up to 150. Even when my weight was down, it didn't affect my blood pressure. It was still over 140/90. - 2/20/2015 4:57:16 PM
    i was on blood pressure meds for 37 years ,everytime went to drs it was over the top very high my dr did a 24 hour blood pressure test after i complained of dizzyness and feeling like i was going to pass out i have low blood pressure yes white coat now on no bp medicine - 8/21/2014 9:28:37 AM
  • I am so for fortunate that although I am almost 80 years old (in Sept), my bp is normal. - 3/1/2014 6:19:02 AM
  • My MIL was told by her cardiologist to wait 3 hrs after taking her B/P meds then sit and rest 15 min before taking her blood pressure. Even at the Dr office they take it then they would take it again later in the visit after she sat for a while. - 2/23/2014 3:01:51 PM
  • Every time I go to the doctor's office, my BP is high. So I bought a BP monitor for home, and it's normal to low. I brought my monitor into the doctor's office to see if it was accurate, and the readings were quite close. So, both my doctor & I know that I have "White Coat Syndrome" where the BP is higher in the doctor's office. - 2/20/2014 10:50:24 AM
  • Thank you for this article and chart. I was diagnosed with HBP and an abdominal aortic aneurysm in Sept 2012. I have a digital BP monitor since then that I use daily. I am now on meds and my BP is usually under 120/75, unless I am having a stressful day when it gets up to the 130's systolic. - 2/21/2013 1:41:47 PM
  • Very interesting, I knew one fig. was blood in and the other blood out but this makes it clearer, also clearly as I have just been diagnosed w slight high blood pressure, it probably won't take much to bring it down. I hope. I have tablets but intend them to be a short term fix. - 7/6/2012 4:30:36 AM
  • I fall between the optimal and normal and was quite surprized but happy. - 2/23/2012 9:54:06 AM
  • I too fall into the low blood pressure group and would like to know more about it as well. - 10/27/2011 1:41:12 PM
  • I tried googling "hypotension" and found a very informative article from the Mayo clinic. - 7/14/2011 4:58:24 PM
  • My blood pressure today is 109/67. It has dropped in the last couple of weeks since I started to exercise. Dehydration seems to make it worse, at least for me.

    Did anyone hear any suggestions to raise BP, even a little? - 11/10/2010 7:22:02 PM
  • I need info on Hypotension? - 6/23/2010 9:55:23 AM
  • Another person for low blood pressure article. The other day at the Dr was 90something/70 - 6/11/2010 2:07:30 PM
  • This article/chart is an eye-opener. It's good to know what the numbers really mean. - 5/24/2010 5:13:56 PM
  • I really appreciated the chart at the end. I'm almost never right at 120/80, and I have a hard time remembering how far off is considered normal or a little high, or serious trouble. I would really like to see the ability to add goal ranges in our graph charts the way we do for calories and vitamins. - 4/8/2010 9:18:43 AM

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