Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a common form of cardiovascular disease. Knowing what a healthy blood pressure is and how to maintain it can be key in reducing the risk for conditions like heart disease and stroke. There are many things everyone can do to achieve and maintain healthy blood pressure.
“A normal blood pressure for an adult is less than 120/80,” says Dr. Sarah Rugg, a UK HealthCare Gill Heart Institute cardiologist. “The two numbers represent systolic pressure—the force pushing against the artery walls when the heart is squeezing—and diastolic pressure—the force against the artery walls when the heart relaxes.”
Several factors can affect blood pressure. According to Rugg, these factors include age, family history, diet (particularly a diet high in salt), being overweight or obese, drinking too much alcohol, and getting too little physical activity. They all put people at risk for hypertension. Some other diseases, such as kidney disease, can also cause high blood pressure.
“Managing high blood pressure involves living a heart-healthy lifestyle, which includes eating a low-salt diet, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy body weight, and avoiding cigarette smoke,” says Rugg. “It may also be necessary to take medication.”
People can manage their blood pressure in conjunction with their physician. Blood pressure checks are a regular part of office visits, and should be noted in each person’s medical record. Knowing your blood pressure now—and being proactive in keeping it at a healthy level—can avoid health problems down the road.
• Know your risk—have your blood pressure checked regularly
• Know your family history
• Avoid excess salt
• Maintain a healthy weight
• When necessary, work with your physician on a treatment plan for high blood pressure, which may include medication.