Get the facts about high blood pressure

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is more common than you may think. According to the American Heart Association, one in three U.S. adults has high blood pressure. 

Symptoms of high blood pressure

High blood pressure is often called the silent killer. This is because it typically has no symptoms.  This condition can go undetected if a person does not have his or her blood pressure checked on a yearly basis. That is why it is important to schedule a routine checkup with your doctor to make sure your blood pressure is at a normal rate. 

Who gets high blood pressure?

Anyone can be affected by hypertension, but certain groups are more prone to the condition. 

  • People age 60 or older
  • African Americans 
  • People with another chronic condition, such as diabetes or heart failure
  • Those with a family history of high blood pressure
Other main causes for high blood pressure:
  • Smoking
  • Lack of exercise
  • Being overweight
  • High salt (sodium) intake
  • High alcohol consumption
  • Stress

Making sense of blood pressure numbers

Blood pressure is when the force of blood is pushed against the walls of your arteries. It is measured with two numbers. The first, or top number, is your pressure when your heart beats, called the systolic pressure. The second, or bottom number, measures the force of blood in your arteries while your heart is relaxed (filling with blood between beats). This is called the diastolic pressure.

The chart below reflects blood pressure categories as defined by the American Heart Association*.

Blood Pressure Category

Systolic mmHg (upper number)

Diastolic mmHg (lower number)


Less than 120

Less than 80




Hypertension Stage 1



Hypertension Stage 2

160 or higher

100 or higher

*Obtained from American Heart Association

Your doctor may tell you that you have high blood pressure if you have two measurements of blood pressure readings, during medical office visits at least one week apart, that are higher than 140/90. He or she may also advise you to have your blood pressure more frequently checked.

Keys to preventing and managing high blood pressure

If you have high blood pressure, or you are at risk and want to take control now, here are some ways to combat it.

  • Reduce your sodium intake.

    • The American Heart Association, recommends consuming less than 1,500 mg daily. A teaspoon of salt contains 2,300 mg of sodium.
    • The main sources of sodium in our diet are: fast foods and restaurants, packaged and canned foods, frozen meals, and the salt shaker.
    • Low to no sodium foods can usually be found on the perimeter of the grocery store.
      • Fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables
      • Fresh meats, poultry, and fish
      • Dry beans and lentils
      • Eggs, milk, and yogurt
    • Read the food label. In general, foods with more than 300 mg per serving are considered high in sodium.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables.
    • Fruits and vegetables are packed with nutrients that can help lower your blood pressure. 
    • Make half your plate vegetables for lunch and dinner.
  • Eat foods high in calcium.

    • Of course milk and yogurt are high in calcium but did you know that, dark green vegetables, almonds and soy are also high in calcium.
  • Limit alcohol.
  • Be physically active.
  • Avoid tobacco use.
  • Manage your stress.
  • Take blood pressure medication as prescribed.
For more information on how to manage your blood pressure, speak with a Optum doctor today.

This site does not provide medical advice. This website is for informational purposes only.