heart_basics

High Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of the arteries. Blood pressure rises and falls throughout the day. When blood pressure stays elevated over time, it’s called high blood pressure or hypertension.

High blood pressure is dangerous because it makes the heart work too hard and contributes to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). It increases the risk of heart disease and stroke and can also result in other conditions, such as congestive heart failure, kidney disease, and blindness.

Blood pressure is given as two numbers – the systolic pressure over the diastolic pressure – and both are important. A measurement of 140/90 mmHg (millimeters of mercury) or above is called high blood pressure, although if either number is high, that is also hypertension. A healthy blood pressure is around 120/80.

Lifestyle steps often can prevent or control high blood pressure: lose excess weight, become physically active, follow a healthy eating plan including foods lower in salt and sodium, and limit alcohol intake.

Source: National, Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Know Your Health Tips – High Blood Pressure

  1. Have your blood pressure checked regularly – knowing your numbers helps you stay in charge of your health.
  2. Maintain a healthy weight range, based on your age and gender (as recommended by a physician).
  3. Participate in a minimum of 30-60 minutes of moderately intense activity 5 times per week.
  4. Reduce your salt intake, choosing reduced-sodium food options when available.
  5. Take medications as directed and speak with your physician about any questions or concerns.
  6. Reduce alcohol consumption, which constricts blood vessels and causes an increase in blood pressure.
  7. Increase your potassium intake to help lessen the effects of sodium on blood pressure.
  8. Avoid tobacco products, which cause blood pressure to increase. 
  9. Cut back on caffeine, which can increase blood pressure. 
  10. Take steps to reduce your stress outside of the fire station.

Sources: American Heart Association; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; MedlinePlus – National Institutes of Health

Tools and Resources

Your Guide to Lowering High Blood Pressure
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Hypertension Tutorial
National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health