What can we do to manage blood pressure? Start with these three steps.
1. Understand Blood Pressure Readings and Levels - The first step to managing our blood pressure is to understand what the levels mean and what is considered normal, prehypertension, hypertension and hypertensive crisis. heart.org/BPlevels
Blood pressure is typically recorded as two numbers, written as a ratio like this:
Read as "117 over 76 millimeters of mercury"
The top number, which is also the higher of the two numbers, measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats (when the heart muscle contracts).
The bottom number, which is also the lower of the two numbers, measures the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats (when the heart muscle is resting between beats and refilling with blood).
|Blood Pressure |
mm Hg (upper #)
mm Hg (lower #)
|Normal ||less than 120||and||less than 80|
|Prehypertension||120 – 139||or||80 – 89|
|High Blood Pressure |
(Hypertension) Stage 1
|140 – 159||or||90 – 99|
|High Blood Pressure |
(Hypertension) Stage 2
|160 or higher||or||100 or higher|
|Hypertensive Crisis |
(Emergency care needed)
|Higher than 180||or||Higher than 110|
2. Learn and Monitor Blood Pressure Levels
- To find out if we have high blood pressure, we should have our blood pressure tested by a healthcare professional.
- The American Heart Association recommends home monitoring for those of us with high blood pressure to help healthcare providers determine whether treatments are working.
- We can track blood pressure and our efforts to control it online with Heart360. We can even get text reminders and upload readings from a mobile device.
Setting realistic goals and making slow changes over time are the best ways to set ourselves up for success, feel our best and live a healthy life.
- Eat Better. The D.A.S.H. plan is proven effective for lowering blood pressure. Some prefer to educate themselves and practice principles for targeted nutrition improvement.
- Get Active. Physical activity not only helps control our blood pressure, it also helps us manage our weight, strengthen our heart and manage our stress level.
- Maintain a healthy weight. If we are overweight, losing as little as five to ten pounds may help lower our blood pressure.
- Take medication as directed. Following our healthcare provider's advice is the best way to reach our treatment goals and enjoy the benefits of better health.
- Quit Smoking. While smoking has not been conclusively proven to cause high blood pressure, each cigarette we smoke temporarily increases our blood pressure for many minutes after it is finished.
- Learn the Salty Six. Keep an eye on the amount of sodium you’re eating each day by learning the Salty Six - common foods loaded with excess sodium.
View an image of the Manage Blood Pressure with Life's Simple 7® Infographic.