5 facts you should know about high blood pressure

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Updated Feb 5, 2016

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the most common chronic medical conditions. Yet, not everyone understands how this disease works.

High blood pressure often sneaks up on people with no symptoms, and it can have long-term deadly health consequences.

Here’s what you need to know about high blood pressure:

1. It’s incredibly prevalent.

Roughly one in every three adults lives with high blood pressure, and only about half of them have their blood pressure well-controlled, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In 2013 alone, more than 360,000 American deaths had high blood pressure as a primary or contributing cause — meaning almost 1,000 high blood pressure-related deaths each day.

2. It puts you at risk for other serious conditions.

High blood pressure increases your risk of heart attack, stroke, chronic heart failure and kidney disease.

3. There are risk factors you can control and ones you can’t. It usually has no symptoms or warning signs.

Diabetes, smoking tobacco, eating foods high in sodium and low in potassium, not getting enough physical activity, being obese and drinking too much alcohol are all risk factors for high blood pressure. High blood pressure usually doesn’t have any warning signs or symptoms. Your doctor can determine your risk for high blood pressure and offer advice on how to prevent it.

4. Blood pressure is measured using two numbers: systolic and diastolic.

Blood pressure is measured by systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure. Systolic blood pressure is the pressure in your blood vessel when your heart beats; diastolic blood pressure is the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart rests between beats. We measure blood pressure in millimeters of mercury (mmHg).

This chart lists the ranges for normal, at-risk and high blood pressure levels:

Blood Pressure Levels
Normal Systolic: Less than 120 mmHg

Diastolic: Less than 80 mmHg

At risk (prehypertension) Systolic: 120-139 mmHg

Diastolic: 80-89 mmHg

High Systolic: 140 mmHg or higher

Diastolic: 90 mmHg or higher

5. High blood pressure can be controlled and monitored.

If you think you may be at risk for high blood pressure, consult your physician. They can prescribe medications to help control your blood pressure. Reducing sodium in your diet, exercising daily and quitting smoking can also help control your blood pressure.

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You can also purchase a blood pressure monitor to keep track of your blood pressure.

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