What is High Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of arteries in your body. Your blood pressure normally goes up and down throughout the day. It can damage your heart and cause health problems if it stays high too long.

High blood pressure is also called hypertension. High blood pressure is a disease. It usually has no symptoms. But, high blood pressure can cause serious health problems or even death.

A normal blood pressure is less than 120/80. A blood pressure of 140/90 or more is too high.

Blood pressure from 120/80 to 139/89 is called prehypertension. People with blood pressure in this range should be watched closely by a doctor. They are at high risk for developing high blood pressure.

Why is it important to control my blood pressure?

Uncontrolled high blood pressure can injure or kill you. It is sometimes called “the silent killer.” This is because high blood pressure has no symptoms. You may not know it is damaging your arteries, heart and other organs until it is too late. That is why it is so important to see your doctor regularly. There is only one way to know if you have high blood pressure—have it checked by your doctor or other health care provider. 

If you have high blood pressure and don’t get it treated, it could cause:

  • Heart disease.
  • Heart attack.
  • Angina.
  • Congestive heart failure.
  • Fluid in the lungs.
  • Stroke.
  • Kidney damage.
  • Loss of vision.
  • Memory loss.
  • Erectile dysfunction (ED).
  • Peripheral artery disease (PAD).

What can I do to control my blood pressure?

You can do several things to control your blood pressure without taking medications. Following a healthy lifestyle is very important. It can help prevent or manage high blood pressure. The best ways to manage high blood pressure are to: 

  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Limit salt in the foods you eat.
  • Limit the amount of alcohol you drink.
  • Don’t smoke or use tobacco.
  • Increase physical activity or exercise.

If your doctor does prescribe medicine for your high blood pressure, always take it as instructed. Never stop taking your medicines without talking to your doctor first. 

Helpful Documents

Where can I find more information?

Learn more about high blood pressure at the following websites:

View and print these helpful high blood pressure/hypertension handouts

High Blood Pressure: Topic Overview
High Blood Pressure: ACE Inhibitors and ARB's
High Blood Pressure: Checking Your Blood Pressure at Home
High Blood Pressure: During Pregnancy
High Blood Pressure in Children
High Blood Pressure Numbers: When to Get Help
High Blood Pressure: Taking Your Medicines Properly
Exercising for a Healthy Heart
Fitness: Adding More Activity to Your Life
High Blood Pressure Using the DASH Diet
DASH Diet: Sample Menu
Healthy Eating: Heart Healthy Foods
Mindfulness Stress Reduction