High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is a common but serious health condition. It happens when the force of blood against the walls of your arteries is high for an extended period. Over time, the pressure caused by this force can damage your blood vessels and lead to serious health problems like heart disease, stroke and kidney failure.

What is considered high blood pressure?

Blood pressure rises and falls throughout the day, but for most people, a “normal” blood pressure is around 120/80. Anything over that is considered “elevated” or “high.” The different ranges are:

  • Elevated Blood Pressure – 120-129/80 or less
  • High Blood Pressure (Stage 1) – 130-130/80-90
  • High Blood Pressure (Stage 2) – 140 or higher/90 or higher
  • High Blood Pressure Crisis – 180 or higher/120 or higher*

It is important to note that both numbers do not need to fall into a higher range for your blood pressure to be considered “elevated” or “high.” For example, if your systolic blood pressure (first number) is higher than 120, but your diastolic blood pressure (second number) is 80 or lower, your blood pressure will be considered high.

*If you have a reading of 180/120 or higher, contact your medical provider as soon as possible.

Causes of high blood pressure

For many, high blood pressure is a preventable condition. This is because high blood pressure is often caused by other existing health conditions and lifestyle choices, including:

  • Unmanaged type 1 and type 2 diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Physical inactivity
  • Eating an unhealthy diet
  • Drinking alcohol
  • Using tobacco/nicotine
  • Drinking caffeine

High blood pressure may also be hereditary. This means if someone in your family, especially a close relative like mom, dad, or grandparent, has high blood pressure, you may also be at risk of developing it.

Managing high blood pressure

If you have high blood pressure, it is important that you take steps to keep it in a healthy range. What can you do to manage your high blood pressure?

  • Regularly measure your blood pressure: This is one of the most important steps for taking control of your high blood pressure. At-home blood pressure monitors are available and easy to use. Your medical provider should also always take your blood pressure when you go in for a checkup.
  • Take your medication: If your medical provider has prescribed medication for your blood pressure or other health conditions, you should be taking these medications as directed. Ask questions if you do not understand something about your prescription, and never stop taking your doses without first talking to your provider or pharmacist.
  • Make positive lifestyle changes: Eating a healthy diet, getting enough physical exercise and stopping alcohol and tobacco use are all ways you can help to lower your high blood pressure.
  • Manage your stress levels: Stress is often linked to high blood pressure. Learning ways to manage stress, like mindfulness, deep breathing and meditation, is a great way to get your blood pressure under control and feel happier overall.

Getting help for your high blood pressure

You should never feel like you must deal with your high blood pressure by yourself. Often, your medical provider will be able to diagnose you with chronic high blood pressure at your annual wellness exam. Your provider can offer tips, lifestyle advice and medication – if needed – to get your blood pressure under control. Seeking behavioral health assistance to manage conditions like anxiety, depression and chronic stress can help lower your blood pressure in addition to medication and other lifestyle changes. Never hesitate to reach out to your medical provider with questions or concerns regarding your health!

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