Blood pressure is the force of blood against artery walls as it is pumped through the body. Blood pressure helps blood get to all parts of the body. Sometimes blood pressure is too strong or too high. This means that the heart is working too hard, or that the arteries are too narrow. A heart that has to work harder than normal for a long time gets larger and weaker and has an even harder time doing a good enough job.

Blood pressure is written as two numbers, such as 112/78 mm Hg.

Blood pressure is written as two numbers, such as 112/78 mm Hg. The top (systolic) number is the pressure when the heart beats. The bottom (diastolic) number is the pressure when the heart rests between beats.

Normal blood pressure is below 120/80 mm Hg. If you’re an adult and your systolic pressure is 120 to 129, and your diastolic pressure is less than 80, you have elevated blood pressure. High blood pressure is a systolic pressure of 130 or higher, or a diastolic pressure of 80 or higher, that stays high over time.

Another word for high blood pressure is hypertension. High blood pressure or hypertension increases a person’s risk of heart-related problems, including heart attack and stroke, because of the strain on the heart and arteries.

Among African Americans age 20 and older, almost half have high blood pressure. Compared with whites, blacks develop high blood pressure earlier in life and their average blood pressures are much higher. As many as 30% of all deaths in black men and 20% of deaths in black women are due to uncontrolled high blood pressure.

What Causes High Blood Pressure:

A number of conditions and behaviors contribute to high blood pressure. Sometimes high blood pressure is caused by another medical condition, such as kidney disease or lung disease.
• Salt in the diet – Most Americans consume more salt than their bodies need. Too much salt can increase blood pressure. Your daily intake of salt should not be more than 2300 mg or about 1 teaspoon of salt.
• Being overweight or obese – People who are overweight are more likely to have high blood pressure
• Lack of physical activity – At least 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity on most days is recommended.
• Heavy alcohol consumption – If you drink alcoholic beverages, drink moderately for men that means a maximum of 2 drinks a day, for women, a maximum of 1.
• Race – more African Americans have high blood pressure because they are less likely to be aware of their high blood pressure and are not being treated for it.
• Age – blood pressure tends to increase with age in most populations, so older people are more likely to have high blood pressure.
• Gender – men have a greater risk of high blood pressure than women until age 55, when the risk becomes similar for men and women. At age 75 and older, women are more likely to develop high blood pressure.
• Smoking – Smoking affects the blood vessels.
• Diabetes and kidney disease – people with these conditions have a higher rate of high blood pressure.
• Heredity – people whose parents have high blood pressure are more likely to develop it than those whose parents don’t.

How is high blood pressure prevented, treated, and controlled?

The good news is that high blood pressure can be prevented and controlled. There are things that can be done to reduce the chances of having high blood pressure and the problems that it can cause. Treating high blood pressure can reduce the chances of having a heart attack by 27%, stroke by 38%, and heart failure by 55%.
• Use less salt and sodium (about 1 teaspoon daily which equals 2300 mg)
• Aim for a healthy weight
• Eat a low-fat diet that includes fruits and vegetables
• Be active for at least 30 minutes most days
• Limit alcohol (no more than 1 drink each day for women and 2 for men)
• Quit smoking
• Keep blood sugar under control if diabetic
• Take prescription medicine as recommended by a doctor
• Have blood pressure taken as often as doctor advises