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High Blood Pressure: What it Is and How to Lower it

Woman Getting Her Blood Pressure Checked

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If you have high blood pressure, you’re not alone. Also called hypertension, high blood pressure affects 1 in 3 adults worldwide. According to the World Health Organization, the number of people living with high blood pressure doubled between 1990 and 2019 from 650 million to 1.3 billion due to factors including unhealthy diets and physical inactivity.

And since it often leads to stroke, heart attack, heart failure, kidney damage and other health problems, including intracranial pressure (growing pressure inside the skull), high blood pressure can be fatal. Keep reading to find ways to lower your blood pressure numbers — and your risk for these health conditions.

What is High Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure measures how hard the blood in your veins pushes against the walls of the blood vessels. When the blood pushes too forcefully, your blood pressure rises, meaning your heart works in overdrive to send out blood to different parts of your body.

A normal blood pressure level is defined as less than 120/80 mmHg. The first number is systolic blood pressure (the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats). The second number is diastolic blood pressure (the pressure in your arteries when your heart rests between beats).

Blood pressure is categorized in five main ranges, and a blood pressure reading higher than 130/80 mmHg is typically considered high blood pressure.

Your lifestyle can directly affect your risk of high blood pressure. Choices like eating too much salt, drinking too much alcohol, using tobacco or not getting enough exercise can all lead to hypertension. Certain health conditions, like diabetes and obesity, can also increase your risk of developing hypertension.

Many times, you may not experience any elevated blood pressure symptoms until your condition has progressed far enough to cause organ damage. That’s why many people with the condition don’t know they have it — and why regularly checking your blood pressure is so vital to your whole health.

Blood Pressure CategorySystolic mm Hg (Upper Number)and/orDiastolic mm Hg (Lower Number)
NormalLess than 120andLess than 80
Elevated120-129andLess than 80
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) Stage 1130-139or80-89
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) Stage 2140 or Higheror90 or Higher

How to Lower Your Blood Pressure

Managing high blood pressure often requires making lifestyle changes, including:

  • Avoiding smoking or vaping
  • Eating a heart-healthy diet
  • Getting 150 minutes of exercise each week
  • Limiting your alcohol intake
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Managing your stress level

You also might need to take medicine to manage your blood pressure. Your doctor can help you choose a management plan that works best for you.

Put Your Heart in Good Hands

If you’re experiencing high blood pressure, Ahmad Shihabi, MD, FACC, FASE, can help you manage your condition and live your best life. Dr. Shihabi is board-certified in cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular computed tomography. He has offices in Bolingbrook, Woodridge and Hinsdale.

Call 630-789-3422 to learn more or to schedule an appointment with Dr. Shihabi. From prevention, early diagnosis and specialized treatments, UChicago Medicine AdventHealth Heart and Vascular has everything you need for comprehensive heart care. Visit ChicagolandHeartExperts.com for more information.

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