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Hypertension/High Blood Pressure Health Center

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Understanding High Blood Pressure -- Diagnosis & Treatment

How Do I Know If I Have High Blood Pressure?

In order to diagnose high blood pressure, your health care provider will check your blood pressure with a blood pressure cuff. It's important to pay attention to both the higher (systolic) and the lower (diastolic) numbers in your blood pressure readings.

A normal blood pressure is less than 120 (systolic) over 80 (diastolic). You may have high blood pressure if your reading is regularly over 140/90.

Recommended Related to Hypertension

7 Steps to Tame Prehypertension

Is your blood pressure higher than it should be? Lower than the high blood pressure range, but still above normal? That's prehypertension, and it may be more serious than you think. Prehypertension is between 120-139 for the first number in your blood pressure reading, and/or 80-89 for the second number. Nearly 30% of American adults have prehypertension, according to the CDC. What's the risk? You're more likely to get high blood pressure (hypertension). Also, you may be more likely to have a...

Read the 7 Steps to Tame Prehypertension article > >

Although both numbers are felt to be important, systolic blood pressure is probably a better indicator of your risk for heart disease. For people under age 50, the diastolic number is a more important indicator of the risk for heart disease.

What Are the Treatments for High Blood Pressure?

Lifestyle Changes to Treat High Blood Pressure

Making lifestyle adjustments is key to maintaining normal blood pressure. In fact, most doctors will suggest lifestyle changes before prescribing drugs. Lifestyle changes are also the recommended treatment for pre-hypertension, a condition in which blood pressure readings are higher than 120/80, but below 140/90.

  • Quit smoking. This is perhaps the most important step a person can take to improve health.
  • Lose weight. Losing excess weight can help decrease your blood pressure. If you're overweight, work with your doctor to design a safe weight loss plan to get closer to your ideal weight.
  • Eat right. Studies show that a diet low in salt and high in fruits and vegetables can significantly lower blood pressure. Also, make sure you get enough vitamins and minerals -- some studies show that having the recommended daily amounts of vitamin C, vitamin E, potassium, magnesium, and calcium can improve heart health. Your diet should also include low-fat dairy products.
  • Exercise. Regular aerobic activity, such as brisk walking on most days of the week, can lower blood pressure. Regularity of exercise is as important as intensity.
  • Limit alcohol. Women should drink no more than one alcoholic drink per day; men should limit intake to two drinks or fewer. "One drink" means one 5-ounce glass of wine, one 12-ounce beer, or one 11/2-ounce shot glass of hard liquor.
  • Reduce stress. Emotional factors play a role in blood pressure. Studies show that relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, or even therapy to help you cope with stress may reduce blood pressure.

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