According to the American Heart Association, about 85 million Americans have high blood pressure, which is one out of every three adults over age 20, and unfortunately, nearly 20 percent don’t even know they have it.
“High blood pressure forces your heart to work too hard, and it hardens the walls of your arteries,” states ARH Cardiologist William Minteer, M.D. “That is why it’s important to check your blood pressure regularly — even record your numbers and share them with your physician.”
When taking your blood pressure, your readings are shown as two numbers, typically written as a ratio, that represent different measurements. “These two numbers can vary, but new guidelines recommend that your numbers not go beyond 120 over 80,” says Minteer.
The American Heart Association (AHA) defines blood pressure numbers as follows: Systolic: The top number and also the higher of the two numbers. This number signifies the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats (when the heart muscle contracts). Diastolic: The bottom and lower of the two numbers. It measures the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats (when the heart muscle is resting between beats and the heart refills with blood).
What is considered normal blood pressure or high blood pressure? View the chart for a quick look at blood pressure categories defined by the AHA. If you check your blood pressure regularly and notice your numbers are getting higher, make an appointment with your physician. If high readings continue, then your physician will make a high blood pressure diagnosis.
“Whether you’ve just begun dealing with high blood pressure or have had it for several years, the good news is you can take steps to lower your blood pressure,” said Minteer.
According to Minteer, these steps focus on adopting a healthy lifestyle which includes increasing physical activity, managing your weight with a healthy diet (especially lowering your daily intake of salt), managing stress, avoiding tobacco, drinking less alcohol (if you consume alcohol) and taking any prescribed medications. For more information on high blood pressure or to locate a physician or cardiologist near you, go to www.arh.org.