High blood pressure

A young woman checks blood pressure In The Gym

6 must-know facts

There’s a good reason most health care provider visits start with a blood pressure check. While nearly half of all American adults have high blood pressure, many don’t know it. That’s because you can have high blood pressure and still feel fine. Usually, it doesn’t cause obvious symptoms.

Here are six more facts to know about this widespread condition.

  1. Untreated high blood pressure is dangerous. It raises your risk of a heart attack, stroke, kidney disease and vision loss. But once it’s detected, it can be controlled.
  2. Blood pressure is measured in two numbers (such as 112/78 mm Hg). The top (systolic) number is the pressure when your heart beats. The bottom (diastolic) number is the pressure when your heart rests between beats.
  3. Normal blood pressure is below 120/80. Elevated blood pressure is a systolic pressure of 120-129 and a diastolic pressure of less than 80. High blood pressure is a systolic pressure of 130 or higher or a diastolic pressure of 80 or higher that stays high over time.
  4. Family history and race are risk factors. If your parents or a close blood relative had high blood pressure, you’re more likely to get it too. And African Americans tend to develop high blood pressure more than any other racial group in the U.S.
  5. Your lifestyle choices matter. For instance, an unhealthy diet (especially one that’s high in sodium) can make blood pressure creep up. So can being inactive or overweight or drinking alcohol. The good news: Healthy habits can help prevent high blood pressure. And they can bring it down when it’s high.
  6. Medicine may also be a part of treatment. If your provider wants you to take blood pressure medicine, use it exactly as prescribed. Taking a pill every other day or splitting it in two to make the medicine last longer is risky. And remember: High blood pressure medicine is never a substitute for healthy habits.

Sources: American Heart Association; National Institutes of Health

Contact the CMH-OHSU Health Cardiology Clinic at 503-338-4087.

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