Chances are you know someone with high blood pressure. Maybe you even have it yourself. Let’s take a look at what blood pressure itself means, and ways you can control it.

What exactly is blood pressure?

Blood pressure measures how hard your blood pushes through your body in two ways:

  1. When your heart is pumping (systolic pressure).
  2. When your heart is relaxed between beats (diastolic pressure).

Your blood pressure number is the systolic over the diastolic, as in 120 (systolic) over 80 (diastolic).

Your doctor can determine what your ideal blood pressure should be based on your health and age.

What is high blood pressure?

High blood pressure, also called “hypertension,” is when your blood pressure, which normally varies throughout the day, remains too high for your health and age.

High blood pressure increases your risk of stroke, heart attack and other problems. High blood pressure usually doesn’t cause symptoms. In fact, most people find out they have high blood pressure during routine medical exams, so it’s important to see your health care provider at least once a year for a physical and more often if you have health issues.

What causes high blood pressure?

While it is difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of high blood pressure, several factors play a key part:

  • Family history of high blood pressure.
  • Being very overweight.
  • Drinking too much alcohol.
  • Eating too much salt.
  • Aging.

How is high blood pressure treated?

If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, your doctor will give you a blood pressure goal number. Sometimes you can reach this goal by making lifestyle changes, but often you will also need medication to help control it.

How can you prevent high blood pressure?

You can make healthy changes in your lifestyle to help prevent high blood pressure, including:

  • Staying at a healthy weight or losing weight if needed.
  • Eating heart-healthy foods and limiting foods high in salt.
  • Getting regular exercise.
  • Limiting alcohol to two drinks a day for men and one drink a day for women.

For more information on high blood pressure, click here to visit our free online health library.