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Hypertension or High Blood Pressure

What is Hypertension?

Hypertension is when too strong of a force of blood (blood pressure) hits your artery walls as it travels through your body.

  • Blood pressure normally rises and falls throughout the day, but it can cause health problems if it stays high for a long time, leading to high blood pressure or hypertension.

What factors cause Hypertension?

  • The Institute of Medicine states that overweight and/or obesity, inactivity, too much salt and not enough potassium, and high levels of alcohol intake can lead to hypertension.1
  • One out of three adults has hypertension.2 Anyone can develop hypertension, even children.
  • Several factors that are not in your control can increase your risk for hypertension:  age, sex, and race or ethnicity.
  • The good news is that you can lower your risk by eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, limiting your alcohol intake, and not smoking.

What blood pressure levels are healthy?

Under the group Normal, you will see that less than 120 and less than 80 mm Hg is a normal blood pressure level.  To check your blood pressure, your health care provider looks at your systolic (top) and diastolic (bottom) pressures, which the monitor measures.





Blood Pressure Levels


Systolic: Less than 120 mm HgDiastolic: Less than 80 mm Hg


Systolic: 120-139 mm HgDiastolic: 80-89 mm Hg


Systolic: 140 mm Hg or higherDiastolic:  90 mm Hg or higher



What health problems can Hypertension lead to?

√ Hypertension is not only a disease, it is also a risk factor for many other diseases:

  • Heart failure
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Stroke


How can Hypertension be prevented?

√  Follow a Healthy Eating Plan

  • Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan focuses on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy and other foods that are heart healthy and lower in sodium (salt).
    • For example, eat fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables instead of canned foods.  Canned foods have too much salt added.
  • This eating plan is low in fat and cholesterol. For example, fat-free (skim) or low-fat milk and dairy products, fish, lean chicken, and nuts. The DASH eating plan suggests less red meat (even lean red meat), sweets, added sugars, and sugar-containing drinks (such as, soda). The plan is high in nutrients, protein, and fiber.
  • To further assist you in your weight control, you can try using a variety of free, internet-based programs which help you count calories and monitor your nutritional content of your daily food choices.


√  Do More Physical Activity

  • Regular physical activity can lower blood pressure and reduce your risk for other health problems.  Unless your doctor tells you otherwise, try to get at least 30 to 40 minutes of moderate-intensity activity on most or all days of the week.
  • You can do your exercise all at once or break it up into shorter periods of at least 10 minutes each. Moderate-intensity activities include fast walking, dancing, riding a bike, andcleaning the house.
  • You also may want to do more intense activities, such as jogging, swimming, and playing sports. If you’re overweight or obese, try to reduce your weight by 7 to 10 percent during your first year of treatment. This amount of weight loss can lower your risk for health problems related to hypertension.  Check with your health care provider before starting any vigorous exercise.


√  Quit Smoking

  • Smoking can harm your blood vessels and possibly raise your risk for hypertension. Most importantly, it can also worsen health problems related to hypertension.
  • If you smoke or use tobacco, quit.  Also, take steps to protect yourself from second-hand smoke.
    •   Ask for help to quit. Call 1-800-QUITNOW (1-800-784-8669).


Is there treatment for Hypertension?

After adding lifestyle changes such as limiting salt, increasing potassium, DASH diet, alcohol moderation and physical activity, medications are often needed.

√  Take Medicines as Directed

  • Today’s blood pressure medicines can safely help most people control their blood pressures.  These medicines are easy to take and the side effects, if any, are usually minor.
    • If you have side effects from your medicines, talk to your doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant.  He or she may be able to change the doses or prescribe othermedicines. You should not decide on your own to stop taking your medicines.
    • Blood pressure medicines work in different ways to lower blood pressure. Some remove extra fluid and salt from the body to lower blood pressure. Others slow down the heartrate or relax and widen blood vessels. Often, two or more medicines work better than one.

The good news: Simple lifestyle changes (such as diet and exercise) with medications can help those with hypertension live a long and active life! 


For more information on Hypertension, please visit:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention:


National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute:



DASH Diet:


1.   National Research Council. “Front Matter.” A Population-Based Policy and Systems Change Approach to Prevent and Control Hypertension. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2010.

2.   CDC: Vital signs: prevalence, treatment, and control of hypertension—United States, 1999–2002 and 2005–2008. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). February 4,