Life's Essential 8™ - How to Manage Blood Pressure Fact Sheet

Understand Readings

Make smart choices and swaps to build an overall healthy eating style. Watch calories and eat smaller portions.

Blood pressure is typically recorded as two numbers, written as a ratio like this: 117/76. Read as “117 over 76” millimeters of mercury.

  • Systolic: The top number, the higher of the two numbers, measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats (when the heart muscle contracts).
  • Diastolic: The bottom number, the lower of the two numbers, measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart is resting between heart beats.

Blood Pressure Categories

  • Normal: systolic lower than 120 mm Hg and diastolic lower than 80 mm Hg
  • Elevated Blood Pressure: diastolic 120 to 129 mm Hg and diastolic 80 mm Hg.
  • High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) Stage 1: systolic 130 to 139 mm Hg or diastolic 80 to 89 mm Hg.
  • High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) Stage 2: systolic 140 or higher mm Hg or diastolic 90 or higher mm Hg.
  • Hypertensive Crisis (Call your doctor immediately): systolic higher than 180 mm Hg and/or diastolic higher than 120 mm Hg.

Track Levels

A diagnosis of high blood pressure must be confirmed with a medical professional. A doctor should also evaluate any unusually low blood pressure readings. Health care professionals can take blood pressure readings and provide recommendations.

Tips for Success

  • Eat Smart: Eat a healthy diet of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts, plant-based proteins, lean animal proteins like fish and seafood. Limit sugary foods and drinks, red or processed meats, salty foods, refined carbohydrates and highly processed foods.
  • Move More: Physical activity helps control blood pressure, weight and stress levels.
  • Manage Weight: If you’re overweight, even a slight weight loss can reduce high blood pressure.
  • No Nicotine: Every time you smoke, vape or use tobacco, the nicotine can cause a temporary increase in blood pressure.
  • Sleep Well: Short sleep (less than 7 hours) and poor-quality sleep are associated with high blood pressure.

How to Manage Blood Pressure Fact Sheet

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