How to Handle High Blood Pressure (and Prevent It in the First Place)

120/80? 140/90? What do these numbers mean, what do they tell you, and what’s so important about them? They are blood pressure readings, and whether your own numbers are above or below them can have a huge impact on the state of your health. That’s because high blood pressure, which is any reading above 140/90, can lead to severe health conditions like heart attacks or strokes.

The American Heart Association recommends that everyone over the age of 20 get their blood pressure taken whenever they go to the doctor. But getting the test done is just one part of the equation—you also need to know what your reading means and how to take steps towards a healthy number.

What exactly is blood pressure?

When it comes down to it, blood pressure is how much force your blood has as it pushes against your arteries. Every blood pressure reading has two numbers: The top one is the pressure when your heart beats, the bottom one is the pressure when your heart is resting between beats. The ideal blood pressure is less than 120/80. If the force is too high (shown by anything over 140/90), you have hypertension (also known as high blood pressure).

How do I prevent developing high blood pressure?

High blood pressure is caused by lifestyle factors (like having an unhealthy diet and not exercising) as well as a family history of hypertension. To prevent high blood pressure, try to work out regularly, cut down on the amount of sodium in your diet, quit smoking and reduce chronic stress.

I have high blood pressure, now what?

The first step to dealing with a diagnosis of high blood pressure is discussing treatment options with your doctor. Your physician will suggest lifestyle changes like losing weight and improving your diet. In some cases (but not all), your doctor might also prescribe medication to manage your high blood pressure and combat side effects.

There is no quick cure for high blood pressure, but making changes to your everyday habits can help you manage it and keep your heart healthy. Want to learn more about maintaining your blood pressure? Explore these blogs:

Photo Credit: D. Williams 

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