May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month, revolving around ways to prevent and control high blood pressure. High blood pressure (BP) is when blood flows through your arteries at higher than normal pressure. It is the force of the blood beating against the walls of your arteries while your heart pumps. It is measured as the systolic pressure – blood pressure when the heart beats while pumping blood, over the diastolic pressure – when the heart is at rest between beats.

What is the difference between normal and abnormal blood pressure?

  • For adults, normal blood pressure is systolic pressure below 120 or diastolic pressure below 80.
  • Pre-hypertension readings are systolic pressure 120-139 or diastolic pressure 80-89.
  • High BP Stage 1: systolic pressure 140-159 or diastolic pressure 90-99.
  • High BP Stage 2: systolic pressure 160 or higher or diastolic pressure 100 or higher.

It is normal for your pressure to rise when you are active and lower when you are at rest. It also rises with age and body size. There are two types of high blood pressure: the first is primary, which develops over the years as you age. This is the most common form of high blood pressure. There is also secondary high blood pressure. This is brought on by another illness or by medications.

How can I prevent or treat high blood pressure?

  • A healthy lifestyle is the best way to ensure prevention. A diet low in sodium, sugar and red meat; daily physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight are the cornerstones to keeping your BP where it should be. Limit alcohol and deal with stress in a constructive way such as through yoga, medication, exercise or listening to music.
  • Treatments include medicine, changes in your diet and increasing your physical activity.
  • Your doctor will also advise you to quit smoking if you are a smoker, get more sleep and drink lots of water.

Discuss ongoing care with your healthcare provider. There are healthy ways to keep your pressure normal and ways to lower it if it should be abnormal. As with other illnesses, a healthy lifestyle is the best prevention.