Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of arteries as the heart pumps blood. High blood pressure (hypertension) occurs when that force is too high and begins harming the heart and blood vessels.
Stress on the blood vessels makes people with hypertension more prone to certain other diseases:
High blood pressure: what you should know
- There are often no symptoms of high blood pressure, so most people who have it will find out during a routine visit to the doctor.
Blood pressure is measured with two numbers:
- Systolic blood pressure (the top number) measures the force against the artery walls when the heart is contracting.
- Diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) measures pressure in the arteries when the heart is resting between beats.
Measurements fall into three categories:
- Normal: 120 mmHg/80 mmHg or lower
- At-risk: 120-139 mmHg/80-89 mmHg
- High: 140 mmHg or higher/90 mmHg or higher
How can I get help for high blood pressure?
Hypertension is manageable — if you know you have it. That is why it is important to get your blood pressure checked regularly:
- Starting at 3 years old, children should have their blood pressure measured at all routine office visits.
- Adults should have their blood pressure checked at least every two years or more often if they are at a higher risk of developing the condition.
Your doctor may recommend wearing a device at home called an ambulatory blood pressure monitor. This will show how your blood pressure varies during the day.