Understanding Your Blood Pressure

Learn what your blood pressure reading means.

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Over 50 million American adults have high blood pressure, also called hypertension. The scariest part is that 1 out of every 3 isn’t even aware they have this serious medical condition. High blood pressure can cause a host medical problems including cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease and stroke, which can strike suddenly. 

  • The first step: Get your blood pressure tested.You can get your blood pressure checked at your doctor’s office or a pharmacy. Learn how to check your own blood pressure and invest in a device you can use at home. 
  • Get in the habit of testing your blood pressure once a month. Make sure each time to test it at the same point in the day, when you’re most relaxed. For accuracy, take 3 readings and figure out the average.
  • Pay attention to the top number – the systolic pressure, which indicates the pressure when the heart beats while pumping blood. It's the best lifelong measurement for hypertension. A systolic reading above 140 is considered too high and warrants seeing your doctor.

Once you've obtained a blood pressure reading, use the chart below to analyze your results.

For tips on lowering your blood pressure, click here.