One in 3 American adults have high blood pressure. High blood pressure increases your risk for serious health problems, including stroke and heart attack. As part of Heart Health Month, we are sharing some important information from MyHealtheFinder.com about the importance of keeping your blood pressure under control and how to manage high blood pressure.
Get your blood pressure checked regularly starting at age 18 – and do your best to keep track of your blood pressure numbers.
How often do I need to get my blood pressure checked?
- If you are age 40 or older, or if you are at higher risk for high blood pressure, get your blood pressure checked once a year.
- If you are age 18 to 40 and you aren’t at increased risk for high blood pressure, get your blood pressure checked every 3 to 5 years.
What puts me at higher risk for high blood pressure?
Your risk for high blood pressure goes up as you get older. You are also at increased risk for high blood pressure if you:
- Are African American
- Are overweight or have obesity
- Don’t get enough physical activity
- Drink too much alcohol
- Don’t eat a healthy diet
- Have kidney failure, diabetes, or some types of heart disease
What is blood pressure?
Blood pressure is how hard your blood pushes against the walls of your arteries when your heart pumps blood. Arteries are the tubes that carry blood away from your heart. Every time your heart beats, it pumps blood through your arteries to the rest of your body.
What is hypertension?
Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure. High blood pressure usually has no symptoms, so it’s sometimes called a “silent killer.” The only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to get tested.
How It’s Measured
What do blood pressure numbers mean?
A blood pressure test measures how hard your heart is working to pump blood through your body.
Blood pressure is measured with 2 numbers. The first number is the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats. The second number is the pressure in your arteries between beats, when your heart relaxes.
Compare your blood pressure to these numbers:
- Normal blood pressure is lower than 120/80 (said “120 over 80”).
- High blood pressure is 140/90 or higher.
- Blood pressure that’s between normal and high (for example, 130/85) is called elevated blood pressure or prehypertension.
How can I get my blood pressure checked?
To test your blood pressure, a nurse or doctor will put a cuff around your upper arm. The nurse or doctor will pump the cuff with air until it feels tight, then slowly let it out. This won’t take more than a few minutes.
You can find out what your blood pressure numbers are right after the test is over. If the test shows that your blood pressure is high, ask the doctor what to do next.
Blood pressure can go up and down, so you may need to get it checked it more than once.
Can I check my blood pressure by myself?
Yes. Many shopping malls, pharmacies, and grocery stores have blood pressure machines you can use in the store. You can also buy a home blood pressure monitor at a drug store. If the test shows that your blood pressure is high, talk to your doctor.
High Blood Pressure
What if I have high blood pressure?
If you have high blood pressure, you may need medicine to control it.
Print out this list of questions to ask your doctor about blood pressure.
Take these steps to lower your blood pressure:
- Eat healthy, including foods that are low in saturated fat and sodium (salt).
- Get active. Aim for 2 hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity.
- Watch your weight by eating healthy and getting active.
- Remember to take medicines as prescribed (ordered) by your doctor.
Small changes can add up. For example, losing just 10 pounds can help lower your blood pressure.
Get It Checked
To prevent or lower high blood pressure, start by getting your blood pressure checked as soon as possible.
Check your blood pressure regularly.
Make sure a doctor or nurse checks your blood pressure at your next visit. Write down your blood pressure numbers so you’ll remember them.
You can also find blood pressure machines at many shopping malls, pharmacies, and grocery stores. Most of these machines are free to use. Print this tool to keep track of your blood pressure [PDF – 679 KB].
If you want to check your blood pressure at home, you can buy a home blood pressure monitor at a drug store. Get tips for checking your blood pressure at home.
What about the cost of testing?
Under the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010, insurance plans must cover blood pressure testing. Depending on your insurance, you may be able to get your blood pressure checked by a doctor or nurse at no cost to you.
Check with your insurance company to find out what’s included in your plan. Visit HealthCare.gov for information about other services covered under the Affordable Care Act.