Get Your Numbers

The condition is sometimes called “the silent killer” because it usually has no symptoms. The only way to know is to have your blood pressure measured. You can have this done in your doctor’s office. Many pharmacies and senior centers can also measure blood pressure.

Understanding the Numbers

Blood pressure is measured by two numbers that are reported as one number above the other. The top number, or the “systolic” blood pressure, is the pressure when blood is pumping from the heart. The lower number, or the “diastolic” blood pressure, is the pressure when the heart is relaxed between beats.

What the numbers mean

  Systolic diastolic
High 140+ 90+
Pre-high 121-139 81-89
Normal 120 or less 80 or less

The Importance of Treatment

High blood pressure can affect many organs in your body. If untreated, it can cause heart damage, stroke, or kidney damage. High blood pressure may also lead to a higher incidence of dementia.

People with diabetes or heart disease are at particular risk if their blood pressure is uncontrolled, because they are already at increased risk for coronary events and kidney failure. Because of this increased risk, their goal numbers for blood pressure are lower than the goal numbers for people who don’t have these conditions.

Controlling Hypertension

Hypertension can be controlled with medication, weight loss, changes in diet (including sodium reduction), and exercise. For some people, alcohol reduction is important, because consuming more than two drinks a day can lead to high blood pressure. Relaxation exercises or yoga may also help lower blood pressure.

Please get your blood pressure measured and talk to your health care provider about the numbers. You can help avoid serious problems down the road.