What is blood pressure?
The heart pumps blood throughout the body. The force of the blood pushing against the walls of the arteries is what is known as “blood pressure”. It is measured as systolic (pressure whilst pumping) and diastolic (pressure whilst resting between beats) pressures. It is generally written as the systolic number above or before the diastolic number (e.g. 125/79 mmHg - is millimeters of Hg which is the symbol for mercury).
What is high blood pressure (HBP)?
If your blood pressure rises and stays high over time, it can be damaging to your heart, blood vessels, kidneys, and other parts of your body. This “high blood pressure” is also known as hypertension.
It affects many millions of people. For example, about one in three adults in the US suffer from it. As it often doesn’t display any signs or symptoms, many have HBP without even knowing they have it. But it doesn’t just affect adults. It also affects some children and teenagers.
Your blood pressure rises and falls during the day and it also changes if you have a short-term illness. But if your blood pressure stays above 120/80 most of the time, then you may have HBP or be likely to develop it (i.e. pre-hypertension). There are two stages of adult high blood pressure. Stage one is normally indicated by having a Systolic blood pressure in the range of 140–159 and a Diastolic blood pressure in the range of 90–99. Stage two is Systolic 160 or higher and Diastolic 100 or higher.
If either your systolic or diastolic numbers are in the higher range, you are considered to have HBP (e.g. 160/80, is considered stage 2 HBP, 120/95 is stage 1).
For people also suffering from diabetes or chronic kidney disease, HBP is 130/80 mmHg or higher. The range which is considered HBP is also different for children and teenagers.
Having HBP increases the risk of strokes, kidney failure and heart disease. Factors which could cause you to be more likely to develop HBP include obesity, over-consumption of alcohol and/or salt, smoking, being African American, being physically inactive, being pregnant, diabetes, gout, kidney disease and having other close relatives that have it. Although blood pressure generally rises beyond 35 years of age, it is possible to prevent this through the adoption of a healthy lifestyle.
Disclaimer: The statements made on this page have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They are not intended to diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. If a condition persists, please contact your physician or healthcare provider. The information provided is not a substitute for a face-to-face consultation with a healthcare provider, and should not be construed as medical advice.