As blood moves through arteries and veins, it creates a force against the blood vessels’ walls, which is blood pressure.

As the heart beats and pumps blood, blood pressure goes up; when the heart relaxes, blood pressure goes down. So with each heartbeat, blood pressure rises to the maximum point and then decreases to the minimum point.

Having a blood pressure that’s within the normal range is an important aspect of overall health. Someone with high blood pressure can be at a higher risk for a heart attack and may even have an increased risk of dying.


What Is High Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a condition that involves a higher-than-normal force of blood against the artery walls.

One of the most dangerous aspects of high blood pressure is the lack of symptoms it causes: Many people can have dangerous blood pressure levels without having any symptoms at all.

When too much pressure is put on the artery walls, damage can occur to these blood vessels as well as to organs in the body. The higher the blood pressure and the longer it’s not managed, the greater the damage can be.

Health risks of uncontrolled blood pressure include heart attack, stroke, aneurysm, heart failure, kidney damage, vision loss, metabolic syndrome, memory trouble, and dementia. Some health issues of high blood pressure can be fatal.


Dangers of Low Blood Pressure

It might seem like having low blood pressure would be safe, but this condition, known as hypotension, can also be dangerous. When the blood pressure is too low, organs might not be getting enough blood.

Reasons for low blood pressure might include a thyroid deficiency, issues with adrenal glands, or anemia. Treating the cause of the low blood pressure will usually resolve the problem and bring blood pressure back up to within the normal range.


Understanding Blood Pressure Readings

Blood pressure readings include two numbers. The upper number is the systolic number, and the lower number is the diastolic number. A normal blood pressure will have a systolic number of less than 120 and a diastolic number of less than 80.

Blood pressure will be considered to be elevated if the systolic number is between 120 and 129 and the diastolic number is less than 80.

Hypertension stage 1 involves a systolic number of between 130 and 139 and a diastolic number of between 80 and 89. For hypertension stage 2, the systolic number would be 140 or higher and the diastolic number would be 90 or higher.

A hypertensive crisis involves a systolic number of more than 180 and a diastolic number of more than 120.


Why Does Knowing Your Blood Pressure Matter?

Because hypertension is considered a silent killer, knowing your blood pressure is important so you know if you have a potential health issue.

If you have high blood pressure, the longer the situation exists, the more likely it is that damage will occur.

Once elevated blood pressure is discovered, a patient can receive treatment. It’s also possible to make lifestyle changes that should help bring the blood pressure down.


Managing Blood Pressure

In many cases, it’s possible to manage high blood pressure without medication. Losing weight and maintaining a healthy weight is one way to lower blood pressure.

Eating a healthy diet and exercising regularly are also important lifestyle choices for keeping your blood pressure in check. It may also help to eat a low-sodium diet and to limit alcohol and caffeine consumption.

Smoking has a correlation with high blood pressure, as does chronic stress. If these lifestyle changes aren’t sufficient for lowering blood pressure enough, a doctor might need to intervene with additional treatment options.


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