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Patient education: High blood pressure in adults (The Basics)

Patient education: High blood pressure in adults (The Basics)

What is high blood pressure? — High blood pressure is a condition that puts you at risk for heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease. It does not usually cause symptoms. But it can be serious.

When your doctor or nurse tells you your blood pressure, they will say 2 numbers. For instance, your doctor or nurse might say that your blood pressure is "130 over 80." The top number is the pressure inside your arteries when your heart is contracting. The bottom number is the pressure inside your arteries when your heart is relaxed.

"Elevated blood pressure" is a term doctors or nurses use as a warning. People with elevated blood pressure do not yet have high blood pressure. But their blood pressure is not as low as it should be for good health.

Many experts define high, elevated, and normal blood pressure as follows:

High – Top number of 130 or above and/or bottom number of 80 or above

Elevated – Top number between 120 and 129 and bottom number of 79 or below

Normal – Top number of 119 or below and bottom number of 79 or below

This information is also in the table (table 1).

How can I lower my blood pressure? — If your doctor or nurse has prescribed blood pressure medicine, the most important thing you can do is to take it. If it causes side effects, do not just stop taking it. Instead, talk to your doctor or nurse about the problems it causes. They might be able to lower your dose or switch you to another medicine. If cost is a problem, mention that too. They might be able to put you on a less expensive medicine. Taking your blood pressure medicine can keep you from having a heart attack or stroke, and it can save your life!

Can I do anything on my own? — You have a lot of control over your blood pressure. To lower it:

Lose weight (if you are overweight)

Choose a diet low in fat and rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products

Reduce the amount of salt you eat

Do something active for at least 30 minutes a day on most days of the week

Cut down on alcohol (if you drink more than 2 alcoholic drinks per day)

It's also a good idea to get a home blood pressure meter. People who check their own blood pressure at home do better at keeping it low and can sometimes even reduce the amount of medicine they take.

More on this topic

Patient education: Medicines for high blood pressure (The Basics)
Patient education: Checking your blood pressure at home (The Basics)
Patient education: Coronary artery disease (The Basics)
Patient education: Stroke (The Basics)
Patient education: Carotid artery disease (The Basics)
Patient education: Abdominal aortic aneurysm (The Basics)
Patient education: Heart failure (The Basics)
Patient education: Low-sodium diet (The Basics)
Patient education: High blood pressure emergencies (The Basics)

Patient education: High blood pressure in adults (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: High blood pressure in children (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: High blood pressure, diet, and weight (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: High blood pressure treatment in adults (Beyond the Basics)
Patient education: High blood pressure treatment in children (Beyond the Basics)

This topic retrieved from UpToDate on: Mar 03, 2022.
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