Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of arteries. Your heart beats about 60 to 80 times a minute under normal conditions. Your blood pressure rises on contractions and falls when your heart relaxes between beats. Blood pressure changes throughout the day. However, when blood pressure remains high over time, it is called high blood pressure or hypertension. High blood pressure is a chronic problem that can be treated, but not cured.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that approximately one in three Americans, age 18 years or older, suffer from high blood pressure or hypertension. Sometimes referred to as the “silent killer” with no noticeable symptoms or warning signs, high blood pressure can increase your chance of heart disease, stroke and other serious health issues.
How is High Blood Pressure Measured?
Blood pressure is described as two numbers – the systolic pressure (the top number) measures the pressure as the heart beats. This number is over the diastolic pressure as the heart relaxes between beats. A consistent blood pressure of 140/90 mm Hg or higher is considered high blood pressure. Both numbers in a blood pressure test are important. The categories of blood pressure in adults include:
- Normal – Systolic less than 120 mm Hg – Diastolic less than 80 mm Hg
- Pre-Hypertension – Systolic 120 – 139 – Diastolic 80 – 89
- Stage 1 Hypertension – Systolic 140 – 159 – Diastolic 90 – 99
- Stage 2 Hypertension- Greater than 160 – Greater than 100