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A cardiologist holds a stethoscope to check her patient's heart rate and rhythm.

High blood pressure

Your blood pressure rises and falls during the day, depending on your activity and stress levels. If your pressure remains high for too long, it can cause damage to your heart and blood vessels.

Nearly half of U.S. adults are diagnosed with hypertension, but only 24 percent of those have their condition under control. There are lifestyle changes you can take to manage high blood pressure, as well as different forms of medication.

What are the symptoms of hypertension?

Known as the “silent killer,” hypertension has no obvious symptoms. It’s important to regularly check your blood pressure before damage is caused to the heart, blood vessels, and other organs. In rare and severe cases, hypertension can cause:

What are the causes of high blood pressure?

High blood pressure develops over time and is most often caused by:

  • Obesity
  • Insulin resistance
  • High salt intake
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • Smoking

Are there different levels of hypertension?

  • Normal blood pressure = below 120 systolic and 80 diastolic mmHg
  • Elevated blood pressure = 120 to 129 systolic and below 80 diastolic mmHg
  • Stage 1 hypertension = 130 to 139 systolic and 80 to 89 diastolic mmHg
  • Stage 2 hypertension = 140 systolic or higher or 90 diastolic mmHg or higher

What are the risk factors for high blood pressure?

  • Age: Adults older than 60 are at a higher risk.
  • Ethnicity: African Americans are more prone to hypertension.
  • Weight: Obesity or being overweight increases your risk of high blood pressure.
  • Gender: Men are more likely to develop high blood pressure in middle age, while women are more likely to develop it at an older age.
  • Existing conditions: Other cardiovascular conditions, along with chronic kidney disease, increase your risk of hypertension.

How do I prevent high blood pressure?

  • Regular blood pressure screenings with your doctor
  • Get at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week
  • No smoking
  • Eat a healthy diet, including limiting sodium and alcohol
  • Keep a healthy weight
  • Manage stress

How do you treat hypertension?

If lifestyle changes and the above prevention methods don’t help in lowering your blood pressure, your doctor may recommend some form of medication to treat the condition. The type of medicine prescribed depends on your overall health. Two or more blood pressure drugs often work better than one. It may take some time to find the right combination of medications.

The typical range of a resting heart rate is 60-100 beats per minute. However, a lower heart rate indicates more efficient heart function and better health overall. A simple way to measure your heart rate is by placing your index and middle fingers on either your neck or heart where you can feel your pulse, count how many beats you feel in 15 seconds, and multiply that number by four.

There are several lifestyle changes you can make to lower your heart rate.

  • Increase exercise. More activity can strengthen your heart and bring down your heart rate.
  • Limit or avoid stimulants. Caffeine, nicotine, and other stimulants drive up your heart rate, and limiting or eliminating your intake of them can help you achieve a lower resting heart rate.
  • Manage stress and get rest. Stress and a lack of sleep are common contributors to higher heart rates. Finding ways to stay calm and get plenty of sleep can bring your heartbeat to a healthy pace.

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