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Learning to manage your blood pressure can be lifesaving – literally. In 2019, high blood pressure was a primary or contributing cause of death in half a million Americans. The condition increases the risk for kidney disease, heart attack and stroke.
Often called a ‘silent killer’, high blood pressure doesn’t usually have any symptoms. The best way to monitor your blood pressure is to have it checked regularly and know what your numbers mean.
Blood pressure measures how hard blood pushes against the body’s artery walls. Arteries carry blood from the heart to other parts of the body.
Blood pressure normally rises and falls throughout the day, but it can damage your heart and cause health problems if it stays high for a long time. That’s why keeping an eye on your blood pressure levels is so important.
Two aspects of blood pressure are measured: systolic and diastolic. Levels are categorized as follows:
Normal: systolic less than 120 mmHg and diastolic less than 80 mmHg.
Elevated: systolic 120 -129 mmHg and diastolic less than 80 mmHg.
Stage 1 hypertension: systolic 130 -139 mmHg or diastolic 80 - 89 mmHg.
Stage 2 hypertension: systolic 140+ mmHg or diastolic 90+mmHg
Certain lifestyle choices and behaviors affect blood pressure and raise it to dangerous levels. They include:
Remember, you’re not alone. Millions of people just like you are dealing with high blood pressure. Use these resources to learn more about ways to monitor and manage your blood pressure:
Originally published 3/13/2019; Revised 2022
Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, a Division of Health Care Service Corporation, a Mutual Legal Reserve Company, an Independent Licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association
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