Could I have high blood pressure?

Learn the signs and how you can prevent and control high blood pressure

Many conditions come with a clear list of symptoms. But high blood pressure – or hypertension – usually has none. However, it may cause serious problems such as stroke, heart disease, heart attack or kidney failure.

What is high blood pressure?

When a doctor measures your blood pressure, the results are given in two numbers. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a reading of 120/80 mmHg or below is considered normal, while 140/90mmHg and above is considered high. Blood pressure routinely rises and falls, but it may cause problems if it stays high for a long time, such as two or more checkups.

Who is at risk?

According to the CDC, about 1 in 3 U.S. adults – or 75 million people – have high blood pressure. And only half of those people have their condition under control. Another 1 in 5 adults is unaware of having high blood pressure.

Anyone may have high blood pressure, but some people are at greater risk due to factors such as age, gender, family history or other medical conditions. For example, nearly 6 in 10 people with diabetes also have high blood pressure, per the CDC.

Although you cannot control all of your risk factors, there are steps you may take to help prevent or control high blood pressure and lower your risk for other complications.

Tips for control and prevention

If you have high blood pressure, your doctor may recommend medications or lifestyle changes. If you do not, decisions in your daily life may still help keep your numbers within normal range. Here are some tips from the CDC, National Institutes of Health and American Heart Association:

  • Manage other medical conditions. If you have diabetes, keeping your blood sugar under control may help reduce your risk for high blood pressure. Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions for any medications you take.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Aim to include more fruits, vegetables, potassium and whole grains and less sodium, saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese may increase your risk for high blood pressure. Your doctor may use waist and hip measurements or body mass index (BMI) to determine if your weight is in a healthy range. Your health care provider may measure and record your BMI at least once a year.
  • Be active. It is recommended that adults get 2.5 hours of moderate physical activity1 every week, or about 20-30 minutes per day.
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking cigarettes may raise your blood pressure. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, your doctor may help you make a plan to quit.
  • Limit alcohol. Adults should limit alcohol to no more than 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men.
  • Manage stress. Over time, routine stress may contribute to serious health problems. It may also contribute to other risk factors such as poor diet or alcohol use.

In addition to these prevention and control steps, it’s important to check your blood pressure regularly. You may do this at a doctor’s office or pharmacy, or with a home blood pressure monitor. Because high blood pressure often comes with no symptoms, it’s important to check your numbers even if you feel fine.


What to do next

Learn more about high blood pressure, including causes and how to prevent it.

Footnotes

  1. Talk with your doctor before significantly increasing your activity level.