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.
Know Your Health Tips – High Blood Pressure
Tools and Resources
Your Guide to Lowering High Blood Pressure
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health