What Is Blood Pressure?

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

Time to update this article but it still makes one aware to check their blood pressure. Report
I wonder what they would think of mine

Today it was

108 over 53 (most days as well)

HR was 46 Report
Thanks Report
Thank you! Report
Thanks to ABELAWSKI and KATIE520 for the update and yes, I agree, this article could use a good update including low range blood pressure and healthy adjustments to deal with abnormal blood pressures (as suggested by others). Report
This information is outdated.

Please review the data provided by NIH here: https://report.ni

"JNC-7 adds a new category, called prehypertension, and identifies four blood pressure categories: normal (less than 120 systolic and less than 80 diastolic), prehypertension (120–139 systolic and/or 80–89 diastolic), stage 1 hypertension (140–159 systolic and/or 90–99 diastolic), and stage 2 hypertension (at least 160 systolic and/or at least 100 diastolic). " Report
As of April 2018 they've lowered the levels considered to be hypertension. Stage 1 is now 130-139/80-89. I tried to put the chart here, but I guess they don't allow that.
My BP has come down to normal range since starting on LOW CARB lifestyle! No more headaches (used to eat multiple Ibuprofen many times a day) and best of all, I’m down 56 lbs. :-) Happy Dance 💃 Report
Good info. Report
I try to watch my diet and exercise to keep my blood pressure under control. Report
The article was good but like most articles on HBP fails to describes what the best diet is to reduce it. While the DASH diet is better than a sharp stick in the eye, it comes up significantly short when compared to a whole food, plant based diet. That is the best diet to lower your BP without taking medication. Medication sucks since it comes with a whole host of side effects). People may not like giving up meat, dairy, eggs and processed foods but it is by far the healthiest diet out there. Report
What I would like more understanding on is when you have a fairly high systolic and a low (like 40-48) diastolic. I wish you would do an article on that. Report
This article about blood pressure is so important. So many people dont know their blood pressure and it is usually something that can be controlled with a little bit of knowledge. But, excerise and diet r two key factors in controlling it. since i have been walking ,my blood pressure is very good.Still working on my diest, but getting better with it, as well. Report
Thanks for this article. I appreciate a well worded explanation about Blood Pressure. Report
Great information for all! Report