High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)

What is high blood pressure?

Here's how to start at-home monitoring:

  1. Locate a convenient blood pressure machine. You can also purchase one for at-home use ($20-120 at most drug stores).
  2. Download a free blood pressure monitoring log
  3. Check and record your blood pressure on the log regularly. Share the log with your doctor. 

 
Blood pressure is a measure of how hard blood pushes against the walls of your arteries (blood vessels).  Over time, high blood pressure begins to damage the blood vessels, heart and kidneys. This can lead to heart attack, stroke and other serious health problems. High blood pressure is often called a 'silent killer' because there no signs or symptoms.
 
Blood pressure is measured with two numbers:
  • Systolic (top number) - shows how hard blood pushes when the heart is pumping
  • Diastolic (bottom number) - shows how hard blood pushes between heartbeats
 
An ideal blood pressure is less than 120/80. High blood pressure is 140/90 or higher. Many people fall into the 'at risk' category called prehypertension. These people need to make lifestyle changes to prevent or delay the development of high blood pressure.
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Anyone can develop high blood pressure. However, certain factors can increase your chances of developing high blood pressure. These include:
  • Age. Blood presure tends to rise with age. About 65% of Americans over age 60 have high blood pressure.
  • Race/ethnicity. High blood pressure is more common in African American adults than White or Hispanic adults. 
  • Overweight. You are more likely to develop prehypertension or high blood pressure if you are overweight or obese.
  • Gender. Before age 55, men are more likely than women to develop high blood pressure. After age 55, women are more likely to develop high blood pressure.
  • Lifestyle. Unhealthy lifestyle habits can contribute to high blood pressure, including stress, drinking too much alcohol, eating too much sodium and lack of physical activity.
  • Family history. If your parents or siblings have high blood pressure, you are more likely to develop prehypertension or high blood pressure.
 
Source: nhlbi.nih.gov
 
Whatever your age, you can take steps each day to keep your blood pressure in a healthy range.

  • Stop smoking. Cigarette smoking raises your blood pressure and puts you at higher risk for heart attack and stroke. For help quitting smoking in Maryland, click here.
  • Limit alcohol. Avoid drinking too much alcohol, which can raise your blood pressure. Men should have no more than two drinks per day, and women only one.
  • Increase physical activity. Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your blood pressure. Adults should aim for 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise such as brisk walking or bicycling every week.
  • Lose or manage weight. Being overweight or obese increases your risk for high blood pressure. To determine if your weight is in a healthy range, doctors often calculate your body mass index (BMI) using your height and weight. Check your BMI here
  • Monitor your blood pressure at-home. Research shows people with high blood pressure who practice effective at-home monitoring lower their blood pressure significantly more than those who only have blood pressure measured periodically at their doctor's office.  
     
    Source: Uhlig K. et al. Self-Measured Blood Pressure Monitoring in the Management of Hypertension: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis Ann Intern Med. 2013;159(3):185-194

Talk with your doctor or health care team about managing your blood pressure.