Blood pressure can vary from person to person and over time, even for the same person. The average adult’s blood pressure is about 120/80 mm Hg. There are two numbers involved in measuring blood pressure, Systolic Blood Pressure (the top number) and Diastolic Blood Pressure (the bottom number).

A difference between these two numbers indicates high blood pressure, while a similar reading is considered normal. A systolic reading of 140 or higher is known as hypertension.

A person may have normal blood pressure at certain times and then suddenly develop hypertension. High blood pressure damages the heart, eyes, kidneys, brain, and blood vessels throughout the body. Left untreated, the damage caused by hypertension can lead to stroke, kidney failure, coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, and premature death.

For people who already have hypertension, lifestyle changes are still appropriate. But any additional medications taken should be closely monitored by a doctor.


Hypertension refers to high blood pressure. It is not only a risk factor for heart disease and stroke, but it may also contribute to problems with kidney function, vision loss, and memory loss. According to the National Institutes of Health, about 28 million Americans have hypertension, including 6.6 percent of people over age 18. Among African Americans, the percentage is 34 percent; among Latinos, 30 percent; and among adults aged 65 years or older, 37 percent.


Hypotension is low blood pressure. When your blood pressure falls below 60/40 mm Hg, it is considered hypotensive. The condition is associated with dizziness, fainting, shortness of breath, confusion, blurred vision, headaches, and nausea. In some cases, the person experiences sudden weakness in the arms or legs, called syncope. Symptoms generally last five to 10 minutes but they can continue after the person comes out of the condition.

There are many ways to prevent hypertension, including exercise, diet, weight loss, quitting smoking, reducing alcohol consumption, losing excess sodium, not consuming caffeine, medication, and stress management. If lifestyle changes do not work, medications may be prescribed. Lifestyle changes should always be tried first; however, if they fail, medications can lower blood pressure.

1. Diet

Eating right can have huge effects on your blood pressure level. Eating foods high in fiber will help regulate your digestive system, keep your blood sugar levels steady, and aid in weight loss. Foods that are rich in potassium like bananas, spinach, avocados, and potatoes can actually help lower your blood pressure as well. Avoid eating foods high in sodium like bread, pasta, cheese, bacon, canned meat, and other processed meats.

One of the best ways to treat high blood pressure is by changing your diet. A healthy diet will help lower your intake of sodium, sugar, caffeine, alcohol, and refined grains. Include foods that have low amounts of these substances in them such as vegetables, fruits, beans, whole grain products, lean meats, fish, nuts, seeds, eggs, and dairy. Also try to avoid processed food and sugary drinks if possible.

2. Exercise

Exercise helps to reduce hypertension by lowering blood pressure and increasing heart rate. In addition, exercise increases the body’s production of nitric oxide—a chemical produced in the body that relaxes smooth muscle cells and reduces systemic vascular resistance.

Physical activity should be performed three times per week at least 20 minutes each time. Moderate intensity aerobic exercises, such as brisk walking, jogging, swimming laps, and cycling, are recommended while vigorous-intensity activities, such as running and rowing, are not advised due to their higher risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

3. Reduce Salt Intake

Reduce consumption of salt to prevent high blood pressure, especially if you are African American and you already have diabetes. If you eat out, ask for no added salt to your meal. If you want to add extra flavor to dishes, use herbs and spices instead of salt. Try making some simple changes to your lifestyle habits, including limiting the amount of salt you put on your food.

4. Lower Blood Pressure Medication

If you take medication to control your blood pressure, make sure you continue taking it after you stop smoking. Your doctor might tell you to cut back on how much medicine you take. You may need to change medications before quitting smoking, depending on whether you’ve been taking them long term. Discuss any questions with your doctor.

5. Quit Smoking

Quitting smoking greatly reduces the risk of developing high blood pressure. Your doctor may recommend a smoking cessation program, which includes counseling and nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), if you smoke. NRT, such as patches, gum, inhalers, or sprays, can help you quit smoking without harming your health. Ask your doctor about using NRT to help you quit. Quitting smoking also lowers your risk of having a stroke later in life.

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