In Depth


Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure. “Blood pressure” is the force of the blood against the blood vessel walls as it is pumped by your heart and travels throughout your body. Blood pressure is usually reported in two numbers; systolic and diastolic. The systolic pressure is the pressure of the blood as the heart beats. The diastolic pressure is the pressure of the blood in between heartbeats. Your blood pressure is usually written like a fraction, with the systolic number being the number on top or to the left, and the diastolic number being the one on the bottom or to the right. For example, if your blood pressure is 130/72 then 130 is your systolic pressure and 72 is your diastolic pressure.

What is a healthy blood pressure level for an adult?

    Systolic Pressure (mm Hg) Diastolic Pressure (mm Hg)
Optimal Below 120 Below 80
Normal 121 - 130 81-85
High-Normal 130-139 85-89
Hypertension Stage 1 140-159 90-99
Stage 2 160-179 100-109
Stage 3 180 and higher 110 and higher



Factors that you can control:

  • OBESITY—The heavier that you are the more you increase your risk of hypertension.
  • INACTIVITY—Lack of physical activity increases your risk of hypertension.
  • SMOKING—The chemicals in tobacco can damage your artery walls. Nicotine forces your heart towork harder.
  • SODIUM SENSITIVITY—People who are sodium sensitive retain more fluid, which leads to hypertension.
  • EXCESSIVE ALCOHOL USE—Can damage your heart muscle over time.
  • STRESS—High levels of stress can lead to temporary high blood pressure.
  • CHRONIC HEALTH CONDITIONS—High blood cholesterol, diabetes and certain sleep disorders like sleep apnea can increase your risk of hypertension.

Factors that you can't control:

  • AGE—Your risk of hypertension increases as you get older.
  • RACE—If you are black you have a greater chance of developing hypertension. Some populations of American Indians also are at higher risk.
  • SEX—In young adulthood and early middle age, men are at higher risk for hypertension than women. From age 55 - 64 both sexes are at a similar risk. Age 65 and older; women are at a higher risk than men.
  • FAMILY HISTORY—Hypertension tends to run in families.

Hypertension is often known as “the silent killer” because it may not be noticed for a long time. If left untreated, it can cause damage to your kidneys and can increase your chance of having a stroke, heart attack, or other cardiovascular problems. If you are told that your blood pressure is too high, you need to take steps to control it. SisterTalk can help you make these lifestyle changes.

  • Lose weight if you are overweight.
  • Become physically active.
  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat plenty of low-fat dairy foods.
  • Choose low-fat foods and lean poultry and fish.
  • Limit your alcohol intake.
  • If you’re on high blood pressure medication, take it as prescribed.

For many people, lifestyle changes may be all that are needed to lower high blood pressure. For others, medication is necessary. If you are on medication, remember that making healthy lifestyle changes can help your medication to work more effectively.

It is very important, if you have high blood pressure, to talk with your medical care provider. Frequent blood pressure measurements are needed to check your progress and adjust your medications. Make sure that you keep a record of your blood pressure so that you can also track your progress.

Making healthy lifestyle changes, to help lower your blood pressure, will make you feel better and enjoy your life more. Changes like eating in a healthy manner, quitting smoking, and becoming more physically active, are the first steps to a healthier body. Check with your medical care provider and find out what your blood pressure numbers are. Take care of yourself!