May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month.  Below is some information and resources to help you understand high blood pressure and how to keep it under control.

What is high blood pressure?

High blood pressure (also referred to as HBP, or hypertension) is when your blood pressure, the force of blood flowing through your blood vessels, is consistently too high.  High Blood Pressure can cause strokes, vision loss, heart failure, heart attack, sexual dysfunction, and kidney disease/failure.

High blood pressure is a “silent killer”

You may not feel that anything is wrong, but high blood pressure could be quietly causing damage that can threaten your health. The best prevention is knowing your numbers and making changes that matter in order to prevent and manage high blood pressure.

Your blood pressure numbers and what they mean

Your blood pressure is recorded as two numbers:

  • Systolic blood pressure (the first or upper number) – indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls when the heart beats.
  • Diastolic blood pressure (the second or lower number) – indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls while the heart is resting between beats.

Below is a reference chart provided by the American Heart Association that identifies the ranges of high blood pressure.

If you have high blood pressure, you are not alone.

  • Nearly half of American adults have high blood pressure. (Many don’t even know they have it.) Most of the time high blood pressure (HBP, or hypertension) has no obvious symptoms to indicate that something is wrong, but HBP can lead to heart attack, stroke, and kidney failure.
  • The best way to know if you have high blood pressure it is to have your blood pressure checked.  Even better, checking regularly using a home blood pressure monitor is a great way to monitor your blood pressure to help ensure you have it under control.

Know what Triggers High Blood Pressure.

Many things can cause high blood pressure (BP). Therefore, it is important to understand what medications and substances you should avoid to help maintain healthy blood pressure. You can be your own health advocate by following a healthy lifestyle.

A few things you can do include:

  • Reducing sodium intake
  • Checking your blood pressure daily
  • Limit alcohol to less than one drink a day for women and less than two drinks a day for men
  • Limit  or avoid caffeine
  • Limit the use of decongestants and some cold medicines; avoid them altogether if you experience severe or uncontrolled hypertension

Download the BP Raisers Guide from the American Heart Association for more tips to help keep your blood pressure in check.