High Blood Pressure

What is high blood pressure?
High blood pressure is known as the "silent killer" because it often has no symptoms. Left uncontrolled, high blood pressure can lead to heart disease, heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, or blindness. Making some lifestyle changes and taking any prescribed medication should keep your blood pressure under control.

How Blood Pressure Affects Arteries
As blood moves through your body, it presses against the inside walls of arteries (blood vessels that carry blood to the body). Frequent high blood pressure can cause changes in the artery walls. The walls thicken and become rough, which leads to a buildup of plaque (a fatty material).








asuring Blood Pressure
Your blood pressure is too high if it measures 140/90 (140 over 90) or higher most of the time. The top number is the pressure of blood against the artery walls during a heartbeat (systolic). The bottom number is the pressure of blood against artery walls between heartbeats (diastolic).




 Too High

 Top (systolic)

 Below 120


 140 or higher

 Bottom (diastolic)

 Below 80


 90 or higher


Your High Blood Pressure Risk Factors

Risk factors are things that make you more likely to have a disease or condition. Do you know your risk factors for high blood pressure? You can’t do anything about some risk factors. But other risk factors are things that can be changed. Know what high blood pressure risk factors you have. Then find out what changes you can make to help control your risk for high blood pressure. Start with the change that you think will be easiest for you.

Risk Factors You Can’t Control
Though you can’t change any of the things listed below, check off the ones that apply to you. The more boxes you check, the greater your risk for high blood pressure.

Family History

  • One or both of your parents or grandparents has had high blood pressure or heart disease.
  • A close male relative had heart disease or a heart attack before age 55.
  • A close female relative had heart disease or a heart attack before age 65.

Gender and Age

  • You’re a man over age 55 or a postmenopausal woman.

Risk Factors You Can Control
There are plenty of risk factors for high blood pressure that you can control. Learn what these risk factors are and then find out how to reduce your risk.

  • What You Eat  Do you eat a lot of salty, fatty, fried, or greasy foods?
  • If You Smoke  Do you smoke cigarettes or cigars, chew tobacco, or dip snuff?
  • How Active You Are  Are you inactive most of the time at work and at home?
  • Your Weight  Has your doctor said that you are 15 or more pounds overweight?
  • Your Stress Level  Do you often feel anxious, nervous, and stressed?

Controlling High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure (hypertension) is called the silent killer. This is because many people who have it don’t know it. Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80. Know your blood pressure and remember to check it regularly. Doing so can save your life. Here are some things you can do to help control your blood pressure.

Choose heart-healthy foods

  • Select low-salt, low-fat foods.
  • Limit canned, dried, cured, packaged, and fast foods. These can contain a lot of salt.
  • Eat 8–10 servings of  fruits and vegetables every day.
  • Choose lean meats, fish, or chicken.
  • Eat whole-grain pasta, brown rice, and beans.
  • Eat 2–3 servings of low-fat or fat-free dairy products
  • Ask your doctor about the DASH eating plan. This plan helps reduce blood pressure.

Maintain a healthy weight

  • Ask your healthcare provider how many calories to eat a day. Then stick to that number.
  • Ask your healthcare provider what weight range is healthiest for you. If you are overweight, weight loss of only 10 lbs can help lower blood pressure.
  • Limit snacks and sweets.
  • Get regular exercise.

Get up and get active

  • Choose activities you enjoy. Find ones you can do with friends or family.
  • Park farther away from building entrances.
  • Use stairs instead of the elevator.
  • When you can, walk or bike instead of driving.
  • Rake leaves, garden, or do household repairs.
  • Be active for at least 30 minutes a day, most days of the week.

Manage stress

  • Make time to relax and enjoy life. Find time to laugh.
  • Visit with family and friends, and keep up with hobbies.

Limit alcohol and quit smoking

  • Men: Have no more than 2 drinks per day.
  • Women: Have no more than 1 drink per day.
  • Talk with your healthcare provider about quitting smoking. Smoking increases your risk for heart disease and stroke. Ask about local or community programs that can help.


  • If lifestyle changes aren’t enough, your healthcare provider may prescribe high blood pressure medicine. Take all medications as prescribed.

© 2006 The StayWell Company