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What is High Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls. The heart pumps blood into the arteries (blood vessels), which carry the blood throughout the body. High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is dangerous because it makes the heart work harder to pump blood to the rest of the body. High blood pressure can be controlled, but has serious health consequences if not kept at a normal level.

Blood Pressure Brochures

Blood Pressure Videos

What is "Normal" Blood Pressure?

  • Normal: Less than 120/80
  • Pre-hypertension: 120-139/80-89
  • Stage 1 high blood pressure: 140-159/90-99
  • Stage 2 high blood pressure: 160 and above/100 and above

If your blood pressure is above the normal range, ask your doctor about ways to lower it.

A Clinician’s Guide to Improving the Accuracy of Blood Pressure Measurement in Community and Worksite Settings

Provides clinicians with methods to improve their skill at taking blood pressure measurements, and contains information to help managers improve their clinics. Also features Policy and Procedure and Inventory Survey samples; information on training, patient prep and positioning, and links to other valuable resources, including the JNC 7 Guidelines and the NEJM’s BP Measurement training video.


  • Over 25% have been diagnosed with high blood pressure
  • Nearly one-third of people with high blood pressure are not aware they have it
  • Of those diagnosed, 80% report taking medicine for high blood pressure; however, many of those do not have their condition well-controlled

What Factors Increase the Risk of Developing High Blood Pressure?

  • Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Too much salt in the diet
  • Excessive alcohol (more than one drink per day for women; two for men)
  • Stress
  • Older age
  • Genetics or a family history of high blood pressure
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Adrenal and thyroid disorders

Who is More Likely to Develop High Blood Pressure?

  • People with family members who have high blood pressure
  • People exposed to tobacco smoke
  • African-Americans
  • Women who are pregnant
  • Women who take birth control pills
  • People over the age of 35
  • People who are overweight or obese
  • People who are not physically active
  • People who drink alcohol excessively
  • People who eat too much salty or fatty food

Why it's Important to Get your Blood Pressure Checked

Uncontrolled high blood pressure is the leading cause of preventable deaths from heart attack, stroke, and other diseases. Because there are no symptoms, one-third of all adults don't know they have high blood pressure. The only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to have your blood pressure measured regularly.

How Can I Lower my Blood Pressure?

  • If you have high blood pressure, follow your healthcare provider's advice
  • Reduce your intake of sodium, caffeine and alcohol
  • Be active/exercise regularly for 30 minutes, five times a week
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Eat a healthy diet that includes lots of vegetables and fruits

You May Find More Helpful Information on Blood Pressure at these Sites

This information is provided by the Division of Prevention and Wellness within the Department of Public Health.