High Blood Pressure

What is High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)?

With every heartbeat, blood circulates and presses against the walls of your arteries (blood vessels). Blood pressure is the measurement of the force of the blood against the walls of the arteries and their resistance. If this force is stronger than it should be, it is called hypertension or high blood pressure.


Hypertension, otherwise known as the “silent killer”, usually produces NO symptoms.

Keeping track of your blood pressure is important if you suffer from hypertension.

Two numbers will indicate your blood pressure score:

  • Systolic: The top number in your blood pressure score measures the pressure when your heart beats.
  • Diastolic: The bottom number measures the pressure when your heat rests between beats.

How do I know if my blood pressure is normal or too high?

  • Less than 120/80: Normal
  • 120/80 to 139/89: Pre-hypertension
  • 140/90 or higher: High Blood Pressure

If your score is in the Pre-hypertension range, your blood pressure could be a problem. Consult a physician. Hypertension can be controlled and life threatening complications can be avoided.

If your score is rated as High Blood Pressure, consult your physician NOW! With treatment complications are preventable and life expectancy is near normal. Without proper treatment, you are at risk of stroke, kidney disease and heart attack. Any of these conditions can cause death.

For every 20/10 mm Hg increase in blood pressure, your risk for stroke, kidney disease or heart attack DOUBLES!*

*According to the Seventh Report of the Joint National Institute of Health Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation and Treatment of High Blood Pressure.

Symptoms & Warnings

There are usually no symptoms of high blood pressure in the early stages. However, if you have hypertension, the following symptoms could signal an attack:

  • Headache
  • Coughing blood
  • Nose bleeds
  • Severe shortness of breath
  • Confusion

Remember, if you have hypertension, work with your doctor to keep it under control. With treatment, complications from this serious condition can be avoided.  

Your risk increases if you…

  • are overweight
  • are over 60 years old
  • are under excessive stress
  • are a smoker
  • drink (more than 2 alcohol drinks per day)
  • eat a diet high in saturated fat and sodium
  • are sedentary (little or no exercise)
  • use contraceptive pills
  • use steroids, some appetite suppressants or decongestants
  • have family history of high blood pressure, heart attacks, stroke or kidney failure
  • are African American

What you can do to prevent and control high blood pressure…

  • Weight reduction: Maintain a normal body weight. If you are overweight, eat a diet low in saturated fats, sodium and cholesterol with smaller portions.  
  • Adopt a regular aerobic exercise program. Consult your physician first.  
  • Limit your alcohol intake: One drink per day for women, two drinks per day for men
  • Take your medication: Take your high blood pressure medication as prescribed by your doctor.
  • Reduce your sodium intake. 

Normal life expectancy can be achieved with lifestyle changes and/or medication. Some drugs may have side effects. Communication with your doctor can help minimize these effects. There are multiple drug choices and one should work well for you.

What else do we screen for?  Learn more.