Remember, though, there are many steps you can take to lower your blood pressure. It’s important to work together with your health care team to set your blood pressure goal—the reading you’d like to consistently see when your blood pressure is taken—and how you can best reach it. If you have coronary artery disease, diabetes or chronic kidney disease, managing high blood pressure is especially important.
She'll inflate the cuff to a pressure higher than your systolic blood pressure, and it will tighten around your arm. Then she'll release it. As the cuff deflates, the first sound she hears through the stethoscope is the systolic blood pressure. It sounds like a whooshing noise. The point where this noise goes away marks the diastolic blood pressure.
The DASH Diet can help lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, which is good for your heart. In fact, DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or high blood pressure. Even if you don’t have high blood pressure, the DASH Diet is worth a look. It may help you lose weight because it’s a healthier way of eating. You won’t feel deprived. You’ll have lots of vegetables, fruits, and low-fat dairy products while cutting back on fats, cholesterol, and sweets.
Doctors typically use an inflatable arm cuff to measure blood pressure, which is recorded in millimeters of mercury (abbreviated as “mmHg”) and has two numbers. The top number, called systolic blood pressure, measures pressure in the arteries when the heart beats. The bottom number, called diastolic blood pressure, refers to blood pressure when the heart is at rest. When patients have a blood pressure above normal (120/80 mmHg), they are considered to have prehypertension or hypertension.
Most people with high blood pressure are "salt sensitive," meaning that anything more than the minimal bodily need for salt is too much for them and increases their blood pressure. Other factors that can raise the risk of having essential hypertension include obesity; diabetes; stress; insufficient intake of potassium, calcium, and magnesium; lack of physical activity; and chronic alcohol consumption.
Many people also need medicine to control their high blood pressure. Your doctor will tell you if you need medicine, and monitor its effects. Blood pressure medicines don’t cure high blood pressure, but they help to control it. You have to keep taking the medicines regularly, often for the rest of your life. Don’t stop taking your medicine without talking to your doctor first.
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
Dementia. Dementia is a brain disease resulting in problems with thinking, speaking, reasoning, memory, vision and movement. There are a number of causes of dementia. One cause, vascular dementia, can result from narrowing and blockage of the arteries that supply blood to the brain. It can also result from strokes caused by an interruption of blood flow to the brain. In either case, high blood pressure may be the culprit.
Recent research shows that lowering your blood pressure below these levels decreases your risk of heart attacks and all-cause mortality. That’s right—lowering your blood pressure has a direct impact on your life expectancy. In fact, a person with a systolic pressure of 135 has double the risk of heart disease as someone with a systolic pressure of 115. Same goes for a diastolic pressure of 85 instead of 75. 10 points might not seem like much, but every blood pressure increase has a big impact on your health.
Whelton PK, et al. (2017). Guideline for the prevention, detection, evaluation, and management of high blood pressure in adults: A report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, published online November 13, 2017. DOI: 10.1016/j.jacc.2017.11.006. Accessed November 20, 2017.
A meta-analysis of individual patient data from randomized controlled trials found the lowest diastolic blood pressure for which cardiovascular outcomes improve is 85 mm Hg for untreated hypertensives and 80 mm Hg for treated hypertensives. The authors concluded "poor health conditions leading to low blood pressure and an increased risk for death probably explain the J-shaped curve". Interpreting the meta-analysis is difficult, but avoiding a diastolic blood pressure below 68–70 mm Hg seems reasonable because:
LDL cholesterol: This is the “bad” type of cholesterol. Although your body needs a little bit of it to build cells, too much LDL can build up on the walls of your blood vessels over time, eventually blocking blood flow, which can lead to heart disease. When a doctor tests your blood for cholesterol levels, the more LDL there is, the higher your risk for heart disease.
Omega-3 fatty acids: A type of healthy polyunsaturated fat that you need for many different bodily functions. It helps protect against heart disease and stroke. Human bodies can't make omega-3s. There are three types of omega-3 fatty acids: ALA, found in flaxseed, soybean and canola oils, and some green vegetables like kale and spinach; and DHA and EPA, found in fatty fish.
Sodium (salt) sensitivity: Some people have high sensitivity to sodium (salt), and their blood pressure increases if they use salt. Reducing sodium intake tends to lower their blood pressure. Americans consume 10-15 times more sodium than they need. Fast foods and processed foods contain particularly high amounts of sodium. Many over-the-counter medicines also contain large amounts of sodium. Read food labels and learn about salt content in foods and other products as a healthy first step to reducing salt intake. Fast food restaurants also make the salt and calorie content of their food available to consumers at their restaurants,