High blood pressure: silent risk

High blood pressure, which is also called hypertension, could be silently putting you at risk for heart disease and strokes. High blood pressure is often called the "silent killer" because people don't feel any different unless their blood pressure is really high, which is partly why most people who have been diagnosed with high blood pressure do not treat it adequately.

What is blood pressure?

Blood flowing through your blood vessels is like water in a hose. As blood flows through your arteries it pushes against the walls of your arteries. Blood pressure is simply a way to measure the force or pressure of the blood against those arteries. As your heart beats, the pressure goes up and when your heart rests the pressure goes down. That's why blood pressure readings have 2 numbers: the systolic (top number) and the diastolic (bottom number).

  • normal blood pressure: 100-130/60-85
  • "borderline" blood pressure: 130-140/85-90
  • high blood pressure: over 140/90

How to lower your blood pressure

There are several basic recommendations to help lower your blood pressure:

  • drink less alcohol
  • eat a healthy diet
  • eat less salt
  • find some form of brisk exercise that you enjoy, such as walking, and do this regularly, at least 3 or 4 times per week
  • if you are overweight, lose weight
  • if you smoke, stop smoking
  • people with diabetes are especially prone to the complications of high blood pressure, such as strokes and heart attacks, so if you are diabetic, be especially sure to control both your diabetes and your blood pressure

The contents of this health site are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition.

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