1. What Is High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure is a serious condition that can lead to heart disease, heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, vision loss and other health problems.

2. Why Does High Blood Pressure Matter?
At its simplest, blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps blood. If this pressure rises and stays high over time, it can damage the body. That’s why it is important to know your blood pressure and follow your healthcare professional’s instructions if it is too high. High blood pressure puts millions of Americans at increased risk for heart disease and stroke – two of the leading causes of death in the U.S.

3. How Do I Know If I Have High Blood Pressure?
Your blood pressure is made up of two numbers, like a fraction. Both numbers are important in determining whether your blood pressure is normal or high. The top number (known as systolic) represents the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats, while the bottom number (diastolic) represents the pressure in your vessels as your heart rests between beats.

What do these numbers mean? See the chart below to find your numbers. If your numbers fall into the "at risk” (pre-hypertension) or "high” classifications, or are often above 140/90, make an appointment with your healthcare provider.

       Blood Pressure Classification
Blood Pressure Levels
Systolic (Top Number): less than 120 mmHg
Diastolic (Bottom Number): less than 80 mmHg
       At Risk for High Blood
      Pressure (Prehypertension)
Systolic: 120-139 mmHg 
Diastolic: 80-89 mmHg
       High Blood Pressure Systolic: 140 mmHg or higher
Diastolic: 90 mmHg or higher

 Note: If you have diabetes or chronic kidney disease, the goal is to get and keep your
blood pressure below 130/80 mmHg (130 top/systolic number, 80 bottom/diastolic number).

What can I do to ensure an accurate reading?
  • Do not talk or eat during the check.
  • Avoid caffeine and smoking 30 minutes before blood pressure reading.
  • Sit with your back supported and with both feet flat on the floor.
  • Wear a short-sleeved top or roll up your sleeve so the blood pressure cuff fits on your bare arm.
Remember that certain factors may temporarily affect your blood pressure reading, including stress, cold temperatures, exercise and certain medications.

How Can I Prevent High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure – known as the "silent killer” – often shows no signs or symptoms. In fact, nearly 20 percent of U.S. adults with high blood pressure do not know they have the disease.

The cause of most cases of high blood pressure is unknown. But there are factors that can place you at greater risk of developing the condition. That’s why it is important to know what your risks are and to learn which factors you can and cannot control.

Risk Factors You Can’t Control
  • Age
  • Race
  • Family History

Risk Factors You Can Control

  • Weight
  • Physical Inactivity
  • Tobacco Use
  • Salt and Sodium in Diet
  • Alcohol Consumption
  • Stress
  • Certain Chronic Conditions
Information for Measure Up Pressure Down provided by the American Medical Group Association’s Foundation (AMGF)