Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Know your numbers: Blood pressure

About 1 in 3 Mainers are told they have high blood pressure, also called hypertension.  Many people do not know they have it because there are usually no symptoms.  High blood pressure is like having high pressure in a pipe.  It damages the pipe, but you often don't see a problem until it bursts.

What is a normal blood pressure?

A normal blood pressure is less than 120 (top number) over 80 (bottom number).  After that, the higher the numbers, the more at risk you are for health problems.

Blood Pressure Category
Top Number
Bottom Number


Less than 120


Less than 80






140 or higher


90 or higher

What can you do to prevent high blood pressure?

There are risk factors that you cannot change like age and family history.  Below are risk factors that you can control:
  • Have your blood pressure checked.  It should be checked at least every two years since there are often no symptoms. Talk with your health care provider to see if you need to have it checked more often. 
  • Prevent and manage diabetes.  60% of people with diabetes also have high blood pressure.
  • Eat a healthy diet.  Add lots of fruits and vegetables.  Limit foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol.
  • Avoid sodium (salt).  Limit the amount of salt you add to your food.  Many processed foods/restaurant meals are high in sodium.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.  Being overweight can raise your blood pressure.
  • Be physically active.  Exercise for 30 minutes each day.
  • Do not use tobacco products.  It injures blood vessels and speeds up hardening of the arteries.
  • Limit alcohol use.  If you drink alcohol, try to consume less.
  • If you have high blood pressure, treat it.  Your healthcare provider can make a plan that is right for you.

Million Hearts Initiative

Million Hearts® is a national effort to prevent 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. Million Hearts® brings together communities, health systems, nonprofit organizations, federal agencies, and private-sector partners from across the country to fight heart disease and stroke.  To learn more about the initiative or to make the commitment visit:

For more information about heart disease visit: