Many people can have high blood pressure for years without any symptoms. The only way to know if your blood pressure is too high is through regular checkups, which is why annual physicals are so important, no matter your age.High blood pressure, not heart attack or stroke, is the most common cardiovascular disease. If left untreated, it can lead to serious consequences and possibly death.Your blood pressure is represented by two numbers, the systolic (the top number) and diastolic (the bottom number). These numbers are determined both by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries. The more blood your heart pumps and the narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure.When your heart beats, it squeezes and pushes blood through your arteries to the rest of your body. This force creates pressure on those blood vessels, which is the systolic blood pressure.
- A normal systolic pressure is below 120.
- A reading of 120-129 is elevated.
- 130-139 is stage 1 high blood pressure (also called hypertension).
- 140 or more is stage 2 hypertension.
- 180 or more could be a hypertensive crisis and you should call your doctor right away.
The diastolic reading, or bottom number, is the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between beats. This is when the heart fills with blood and gets oxygen.
- A normal diastolic blood pressure is lower than 80, but even if your diastolic number is below 80, you can still have high blood pressure if the systolic reading is 120-129.
- 80-89 is stage 1 hypertension.
- 90 or more is stage 2 hypertension.
- 120 or more is a hypertensive crisis and you should call 911 right away.
If you can successfully control your blood pressure with a healthy lifestyle, you may avoid, delay or reduce the need for medication and hopefully prolong your life. Here are important lifestyle changes you can make to lower your blood pressure and keep it down.
Lose extra pounds and watch your waistline
Weight loss is one of the best ways to control blood pressure. Losing just 10 pounds can help bring it down. But as well as shedding pounds, you also need to keep an eye on your waistline. Carrying too much weight around your waist can put you at greater risk of high blood pressure.
Regular physical activity—at least 30 minutes several days a week—can lower your blood pressure significantly. It’s important to be consistent because if you stop exercising, your blood pressure can rise again.
If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. One drink equals 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.
Each cigarette you smoke increases your blood pressure for several minutes after you finish. The good news: quitting smoking helps your blood pressure return to normal. People who quit smoking, regardless of age, have substantial increases in life expectancy.
Reduce your stress
Chronic stress is a major contributor to high blood pressure, particularly if you react to stress by eating unhealthy food, drinking or smoking.