What Is Blood Pressure?

You may have high blood pressure and not even know it. According to the American Heart Association, over 100 million Americans suffer from this affliction and almost half don’t have it under control. 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
Elevated <130 mm Hg and <80 mm Hg
Stage 1 130-139 mm Hg or 80-89 mm Hg
Stage 2 >140 mm Hg or >90 mm Hg
Hypertensive Crisis >180 mm Hg and/or >120 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

Thanks for great info! Report
Thanks for a great article Report
Thanks for a great article! As hypertension is a silent killer, it’s critical that people know their blood pressure.. and track it, because it changes. Report
Very important information Report
Thank you for the article. Report
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.