Why Your Blood Pressure Matters

By Merle Myerson, MD, EdD, FACC Director, St. Luke’s and Roosevelt Hospitals Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Program Pre-Exercise Heart Screening Program Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine and Epidemiology Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons

Posted on | By Merle Myerson, MD, EdD, FACC | Comments ()

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is often called the Silent Killer because many people are not aware that their blood pressure is too high. One out of 3 adults in the US suffers from hypertension. 

Many people with high blood pressure may not feel any symptoms and therefore not have their hypertension diagnosed – and treated – for many years. Hypertension is the leading cause of stroke and can cause severe damage to other organs – eyes, kidneys and the arteries that bring blood to the heart muscle (coronary arteries). That’s why your blood pressure number is just one of the lifesaving numbers you need to know.

What Is a Normal Blood Pressure?

Normal, or ideal, blood pressure is less than 120/80 mm Hg. 

Blood pressures of 120/80 – 140/90 are considered “prehypertension.” Blood pressures in this range do not necessarily require medication and many people in this category can bring their blood pressure down with lifestyle modification, such as losing weight and reducing salt intake.   People with cardiovascular risk factors, diabetes or kidney disease with blood pressure in this range often receive medications. 

If a person’s blood pressure is over 140/90 they are considered to have hypertension. A trial of lifestyle modifications can be considered although many patients will require medication along with lifestyle modification.  

What Do the Numbers Mean?

There are two numbers in the blood pressure measurement. The first, or top number, is called the systolic blood pressure and represents the pressure in your arteries (the blood vessels that carry blood with oxygen from the heart to all parts of the body) when the heart contracts (beats) and pumps blood out of the heart and into the arteries.  

Article written by Merle Myerson, MD, EdD, FACC
Director, St. Luke’s and Roosevelt Hospitals Cardiovascular Disease Prevention Program Pre-Exercise Heart Screening Program...