High Blood Pressure
This handout gives you simple steps to lower your blood pressure and keep your blood pressure
within the normal range.
What is Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is the force of blood against
the walls of arteries. It is recorded as two
numbers. The systolic is the upper number
(i.e., 120). It occurs as the heart beats. The
diastolic is the lower number (i.e., 80). It
that occurs as the heart rests between beats.
This would be written as 120/80 or spoken
of as 120 over 80. If you have not been
diagnosed with hypertension, normal blood
pressure is 120/80 or less. If you have been
diagnosed with hypertension, goal blood
pressures are: Office <140/90 and Home
<135/85. Please talk with your doctor or
nurse to make a plan for your goal range.
Blood pressure is measured by a device
called a sphygmomanometer.
High blood pressure (hypertension) is
diagnosed when your blood pressure
remains at or above 140/90 for 2 or more
readings taken at different times. It is
important to check your blood pressure at
home to confirm the diagnosis before
starting any treatment. Your health care
team can help you make a plan.
What is Hypertension?
Hypertension means you have a blood
pressure at or above 140/90 on a routine
basis. This is a very common yet serious
illness. It is often called a silent disease
because in the early stages it rarely has any
symptoms. People do not feel ill. If not
treated, it makes the heart work too hard
causing the walls of the arteries to become
hard. This can lead to heart disease, strokes,
kidney failure, and blindness.
High blood pressure can happen to anyone
despite their age, sex, or race. Experts
believe that one in four American adults has
high blood pressure. Once it occurs, it often
lasts a lifetime. You can prevent and control
high blood pressure by taking action.
What Causes Hypertension?
The cause of high blood pressure is not
always known. It can be caused by arteries
becoming narrow, a greater than normal
blood volume, and the heart beating faster or
harder than it should.
There are risk factors for high blood
pressure. Some are out of your control.
They are called unmodifiable risk factors.
1. Family history of high blood
pressure: If close family members
(parents, siblings) have had high
blood pressure, you may also.
2. Family history of heart disease in
males under age 55 and in females
under age 65.
3. Race: African Americans have high
blood pressure earlier and more often
than Caucasians. It can be more
4. Gender and age: High blood
pressure is more common in men
over the age of 45 and woman over
the age of 55.
Some risk factors for high blood pressure
can be improved in your favor. These are
called modifiable risk factors. They
ξ High cholesterol
ξ Using tobacco
ξ Inactive life style
ξ Oral contraceptives and hormones
used to treat menopause
Ways to Manage Hypertension
Making changes in your life style are the
first ways to manage high blood pressure.
1. Lose weight: This is the single most
important way to lower blood pressure.
A loss of even 5-10 pounds of weight
can lower your blood pressure. The
DASH diet (“Dietary Approaches to
Stop Hypertension”) is one diet that
may be helpful. The DASH diet is
high in fiber, potassium, calcium, and
magnesium, and low in salt. It is rich
in fruits and vegetables. This diet is
low in saturated and total fat including
low fat dairy products. If you need
help with weight loss or would like
details on the DASH diet, ask your
health care provider or visit a dietician.
2. Exercise regularly: It is advised to
exercise for 30-45 minutes most days
of the week and a minimum of 2 ½
hours total per week. Aerobic exercise
is best. This includes walking briskly,
swimming, jogging, and cross country
skiing. If you cannot do this type of
exercise, there are other options your
health care team can give you to
increase your physical activity level.
Do not start an exercise program or
increase your present activity level
without first talking with your health
3. Limit the amount of alcohol you
drink: Do not drink more than two
beers, two glasses of wine, or two
mixed drinks a day. These amounts are
equal in alcohol strength: 24 ounces of
beer = 8 ounces of wine = 2 ounces of
100 proof whiskey.
4. Stop using tobacco: There are many
options to help people stop using
tobacco if you are not able to quit on
your own. Smoking cessation classes,
hypnosis, pills to help you stop using
tobacco, nicotine patches, sprays,
inhalers, lozenges, and gum have
helped many people quit. There is also
the Wisconsin Tobacco Quit Line.
This provides advice and self help
tools, and can refer you to local quit
smoking programs. The Quit Line
number is toll-free 1-877-270-7867.
Ask your health care team for details.
These are ways to manage your high blood
pressure with lifestyle changes. Talk with
your doctor or nurse to see how you may
best work these changes into your routine.
Be sure you take any medicine you were
given to control your blood pressure as
ordered. If you need more details, call
your health care provider.
The Spanish version of this Health Facts for You is #7236.
Your health care team may have given you this information as part of your care. If so, please use it and call if you
have any questions. If this information was not given to you as part of your care, please check with your doctor. This
is not medical advice. This is not to be used for diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Because each
person’s health needs are different, you should talk with your doctor or others on your health care team when using
this information. If you have an emergency, please call 911. Copyright © 6/2016 University of Wisconsin Hospitals
and Clinics Authority. All rights reserved. Produced by the Department of Nursing. HF#4462