High blood pressure (hypertension) is a common chronic disease, affecting approximately 86 million adults in the US.

man with pink shirtMedically, high blood pressure is defined when your blood pressure is 140/90 mm Hg or higher. Hypertension is a major risk factor for stroke, heart attacks, narrowed blood vessels, congestive heart failure, and chronic kidney disease.

What does my blood pressure reading mean?

The first number in your blood pressure reading is the systolic pressure. This is the pressure in the arteries when the heart contracts and pumps blood into the arteries. The second number is the diastolic pressure and happens when the heart muscle rests before the next heartbeat takes place. This is why the pressure is lower. Generally, a blood pressure reading that is 140/90 mmHg of higher is considered high. But there are different ways to classify your blood pressure.

One classification system used in adults is :

  • Normal: Lower than 120/80 mm HG
  • Prehypertension: 120/80 mm HG to 139/89 mmHG
  • Stage 1 Hypertension: 140/90 mm HG to 159/99 mm HG
  • Stage 2 Hypertension: Higher than 160/100 mm HG

Risk factors for high blood pressure include:

  • Smoking
  • Regularly drinking large amounts of alcohol
  • Being overweight or obese
  • High fat or high salt diet
  • Lack of exercise
  • Being of African or Carribean family origin
  • Long-term sleep deprivation
  • Tobacco use: including cigarettes and chewing tobacco
  • High levels of LDL cholesterol (‘bad cholesterol’)
  • Low levels of HDL cholesterol (‘good cholesterol’)
  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • Obesity or having a BMI greater than or equal to 30
  • Being male and older than 55 years old or being female and being older than 65 years old
  • Family history of early onset cardiovascular disease (under 55 years old for men, under 65 years old for women)