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High Blood Pressure

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is defined as a blood pressure of 140/90 mmHg or higher. Consistently elevated blood pressure can put strain on the heart muscle and vascular system. High blood pressure that is not under control can increase an individual’s risk for heart disease, stroke and kidney disease, among other conditions.

Approximately 75 million adults in the United States have high blood pressure including nearly one third of Ohio adults, and only about half of people with high blood pressure have it under control.  Because high blood pressure has few signs or symptoms, many people have the condition and don’t even know it.

Certain conditions and behaviors can increase a person’s risk of high blood pressure.  Diabetes, smoking tobacco, eating foods high in sodium and low in potassium, not getting enough physical activity, being obese and drinking too much alcohol can all increase a person’s risk of developing high blood pressure.  Certain non-modifiable factors can also increase the risk of high blood pressure.  The prevalence of high blood pressure increases dramatically as individuals age.  In 2015, only 9.3 percent of Ohio adults less than 25 reported having high blood pressure, whereas nearly two-thirds of adults age 65 and older had high blood pressure.

Blood pressure is measured using two numbers in millimeters of mercury (mmHg) called systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number).  Systolic blood pressure represents the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats. Diastolic blood pressure represents the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart rests between beats.  The following chart provides the systolic and diastolic ranges for normal, at risk and high blood pressure:


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

  At risk (prehypertension)

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


  systolic: 140 mmHg or higher
  diastolic: 90 mmHg or higher

If a person is diagnosed with high blood pressure, it is important to keep their blood pressure under control.  Healthcare providers should discuss with patients their blood pressure goal and a plan to reach that goal.  These plans often involve taking medications, reducing sodium in the diet, getting daily physical activity, quitting smoking and regular monitoring of blood pressure (at home or in the doctor’s office).