Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mississippi

Under Pressure

If you’re feeling pressured, you’re not alone. High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects more than 74 million Americans and is also known as the “silent killer,” since there are few, if any noticeable symptoms. May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month and there are several steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing hypertension.

Blood pressure is a measurement of the force against the walls of your arteries as the heart pumps blood through the body. Your blood pressure is noted in two numbers – the systolic (first or top) number is the pressure when your heart beats. The diastolic (second or bottom) number is the pressure when your heart is at rest. Hypertension occurs when that pressure is too great and can increase your risk of heart disease and stroke, which are the first and third leading causes of death. Here is a look at how blood pressure is classified:

Normal blood pressure

systolic: less than 120 mmHg and
diastolic: less than 80 mmHg


systolic: 120–139 mmHg or
diastolic: 80–89 mmHg

High blood pressure

systolic: 140 mmHg or higher or
diastolic: 90 mmHg or higher
taking antihypertensive medication

Here are some tips to reduce your risk of developing hypertension:

  • Check your blood pressure regularly
  • Avoid eating a high-sodium diet
  • Achieve or maintain a healthy weight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Avoid tobacco-use
  • Limit alcohol consumption (no more than one drink per day for women and two for men)

Many factors can affect your blood pressure, including hormones, medications, how much salt and water is in your body and also the health of your organs and blood vessels. If healthy lifestyle habits cannot keep your blood pressure under control and you must take medication, follow your physician’s advice and take as directed. Often, there is no definable reason for someone to have high blood pressure, which is called essential hypertension. Some symptoms, if any, can include confusion, irregular heartbeat, nosebleeds, fatigue, headache, vision changes and ringing ears.

To learn more about having healthy blood pressure and other facts, visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s website. The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute also has a section of their website dedicated to lowering your blood pressure.

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