Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Hypertension/High Blood Pressure Health Center

Font Size

High Blood Pressure and Heart Failure

What Is Blood Pressure?

With each beat of the heart, blood is pumped out of the heart into the blood vessels, which carry blood throughout the body. Blood pressure is the measurement of the pressure or force inside your blood vessels (arteries) with each heartbeat.

High blood pressure, also called hypertension, means that pressure in the arteries is above the normal range.

Did You Know?

Under the Affordable Care Act, many health insurance plans will cover preventive care services, including blood pressure and cholesterol screenings, at no cost to you. Learn more. 

Health Insurance Center

How Is Blood Pressure Recorded?

Blood pressure is written as two numbers, such as 120/80 or 150/95, for example. The first number is the systolic pressure. Systolic pressure is the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats and fills the arteries with blood. The second number is the diastolic pressure. Diastolic pressure is the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between beats.

What Is a Normal Blood Pressure Reading?

Type of Blood Pressure Reading

Ideal Blood Pressure

High Blood Pressure


Less than 120


Over 140 (hypertension)

Over 150 (hypertension in

those over age 60)


Less than 80

80-89 (prehypertension)

Over 90 (hypertension)


Who Is at Risk for High Blood Pressure?

  • People with family members who have high blood pressure or a history of heart disease or diabetes.
  • African-Americans.
  • Women who are pregnant.
  • Women who take birth control pills.
  • People over age 60.
  • People who are overweight.
  • People who are not active.
  • People who drink a lot of alcohol.
  • People who eat too many fatty foods or foods with too much salt.
  • People who smoke.

What Can Happen if High Blood Pressure Is not Treated?

Untreated high blood pressure can result in:

How Is High Blood Pressure Treated?

The goal of therapy, if you have high blood pressure, is to lower blood pressure to less than 140/90 (less than 150/90 in those over age 60 without other health issues). To do this:

  • Eat healthy foods that are low in salt and fat.
  • Lose weight, if you are overweight.
  • Limit alcohol to no more than one drink (beer, wine, or whiskey) each day. (One drink is defined as a 5 oz. glass of wine, a 12 oz. can of beer, or a 1 ½ oz. portion of hard liquor.)
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Get treatment for sleep apnea if you have this condition.
  • Take high blood pressure medicine if your doctor prescribes it and follow directions carefully.
  • Have regular blood pressure checks and check your own blood pressure at home as recommended by your doctor.



WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Elizabeth Klodas, MD, FACC on June 12, 2015

Today on WebMD

blood pressure
Symptoms, causes, and more.
Learn the causes.
Compressed heart
5 habits to change.
Mature man floating in pool, goggles on head
Exercises that help.
heart healthy living
Erectile Dysfunction Slideshow
Bernstein Hypertension Affects Cardiac Risk
Compressed heart
Heart Disease Overview Slideshow
thumbnail for lowering choloesterol slideshow
Heart Foods Slideshow
Low Blood Pressure

WebMD Special Sections