What’s blood pressure?
Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of arteries. It’s recorded as two numbers — systolic pressure (when the heart muscle contracts) over diastolic pressure (when the heart muscle rests between beats and refills with blood). Learn more about blood pressure readings or watch an animation about blood pressure.
What’s high blood pressure (hypertension)?
High blood pressure is when blood flows with too much force, putting more pressure on the arteries. This excess pressure stretches the arteries beyond a healthy limit and can cause small tears. The body then kicks into an injury-healing mode to repair the tears with scar tissue. But the scar tissue traps substances that form plaque and can lead to blockages, blood clots, and hardened, weakened arteries.
Several factors can increase your risk of high blood pressure, including family history, age, lack of physical activity, poor diet, social determinants, gender-related risk patterns, obesity and drinking too much alcohol. Learn more about high blood pressure risk factors.
|BLOOD PRESSURE CATEGORY
|SYSTOLIC mm Hg (upper number)
|DIASTOLIC mm Hg (lower number)
|LESS THAN 120
|LESS THAN 80
|120 – 129
|LESS THAN 80
|HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE (HYPERTENSION) STAGE 1
|130 – 139
|80 – 89
|HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE (HYPERTENSION) STAGE 2
|140 OR HIGHER
|90 OR HIGHER
|HYPERTENSIVE CRISIS (consult your doctor immediately)
|HIGHER THAN 180
|HIGHER THAN 120
Why manage blood pressure?
Uncontrolled high blood pressure can injure or kill you. It’s called “the silent killer” because it has no apparent symptoms. Many people don’t know they have it, so regularly checking your blood pressure is crucial.
High blood pressure causes damage to the arteries over time. That damage can lead to blockages and blood clots that limit blood supply to vital organs. Without oxygen and nutrients from blood, the tissue dies. That’s why high blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart attack, kidney failure, and heart failure.
How do you reduce blood pressure?
High blood pressure can be checked, lowered and controlled. Whether your blood pressure is high or normal, you should: