When your heart contracts and squeezes blood out into your network of arteries, the pressure inside those blood vessels is at its highest. This is called systolic pressure and it’s the top number on your blood pressure reading. In between beats, the heart relaxes and the pressure drops. This is your diastolic blood pressure, and it’s the reading’s bottom number.
Effective lifestyle modification may lower blood pressure as much as an individual antihypertensive medication. Combinations of two or more lifestyle modifications can achieve even better results.[87] There is considerable evidence that reducing dietary salt intake lowers blood pressure, but whether this translates into a reduction in mortality and cardiovascular disease remains uncertain.[96] Estimated sodium intake ≥6g/day and <3g/day are both associated with high risk of death or major cardiovascular disease, but the association between high sodium intake and adverse outcomes is only observed in people with hypertension.[97] Consequently, in the absence of results from randomized controlled trials, the wisdom of reducing levels of dietary salt intake below 3g/day has been questioned.[96]
For example, a 2015 study known as the SPRINT trial found that patients who lowered their systolic blood pressure to around 120 mm Hg were 27 percent less likely to die during the study period, compared with those whose treatment target was to lower their blood pressure to less than 140 mm Hg. (The SPRINT study made headlines in 2015 when the trial was abruptly cut short because the findings were so significant.)
Low blood pressure (hypotension) is pressure so low it causes symptoms or signs due to the low flow of blood through the arteries and veins. When the flow of blood is too low to deliver enough oxygen and nutrients to vital organs such as the brain, heart, and kidney, the organs do not function normally and may be temporarily or permanently damaged.
It wasn’t long ago (2013) that those over 60 were advised to aim for blood pressure below 150/90. Now, as a result of a single large trial, the numbers are being revised in a major way. But as Dr. Gilbert Welch has pointed out at https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/15/opinion/blood-pressure-guidelines.html , there are problems with this study. First, about 8% of patients aiming for 140 systolic (or less) had “cardiovascular events,” whereas only 6% of those in the 120 systolic group did. This is only a 2 point reduction, but as a percentage it’s a 25% reduction. This is the misleading use of percentage change instead of actual change. Second, the participants were already at higher than average risk for cardiovascular problems, so it was a study of a selected group and not of the general population.
If your blood pressure readings are consistently high, you and your doctor will probably discuss treatment strategies. Treatment for high blood pressure often begins with lifestyle changes such as a weight loss and exercise program as well as a low sodium diet. In fact, the AHA recommends adopting these strategies as a means of preventing the development of high blood pressure and heart disease. If these strategies are not successful in lowering your blood pressure, medications may be recommended.
^ Jump up to: a b c d e f James, PA.; Oparil, S.; Carter, BL.; Cushman, WC.; Dennison-Himmelfarb, C.; Handler, J.; Lackland, DT.; Lefevre, ML.; et al. (Dec 2013). "2014 Evidence-Based Guideline for the Management of High Blood Pressure in Adults: Report From the Panel Members Appointed to the Eighth Joint National Committee (JNC 8)". JAMA. 311 (5): 507–20. doi:10.1001/jama.2013.284427. PMID 24352797.

Low blood pressure is diagnosed by a doctor when they check your blood pressure with a sphygmomanometer. For people who experience low blood pressure without other symptoms, it may only require regular monitoring by a doctor during routine exams, and medical treatment may not be necessary. If certain signs suggest an underlying condition, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following tests to diagnose a cause for your hypotension:


Modern understanding of the cardiovascular system began with the work of physician William Harvey (1578–1657), who described the circulation of blood in his book "De motu cordis". The English clergyman Stephen Hales made the first published measurement of blood pressure in 1733.[152][153] However, hypertension as a clinical entity came into its own with the invention of the cuff-based sphygmomanometer by Scipione Riva-Rocci in 1896.[154] This allowed easy measurement of systolic pressure in the clinic. In 1905, Nikolai Korotkoff improved the technique by describing the Korotkoff sounds that are heard when the artery is ausculated with a stethoscope while the sphygmomanometer cuff is deflated.[153] This permitted systolic and diastolic pressure to be measured.

The new guidelines stem from the 2017 results of the Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT), which studied more than 9,000 adults ages 50 and older who had systolic blood pressure (the top number in a reading) of 130 mm Hg or higher and at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The study's aim was to find out whether treating blood pressure to lower the systolic number to 120 mm Hg or less was superior to the standard target of 140 mm Hg or less. The results found that targeting a systolic pressure of no more than 120 mm Hg reduced the chance of heart attacks, heart failure, or stroke over a three-year period.
As of 2014, approximately one billion adults or ~22% of the population of the world have hypertension.[137] It is slightly more frequent in men,[137] in those of low socioeconomic status,[6] and it becomes more common with age.[6] It is common in high, medium, and low income countries.[137][138] In 2004 rates of high blood pressure were highest in Africa, (30% for both sexes) and lowest in the Americas (18% for both sexes). Rates also vary markedly within regions with rates as low as 3.4% (men) and 6.8% (women) in rural India and as high as 68.9% (men) and 72.5% (women) in Poland.[139] Rates in Africa were about 45% in 2016.[140]
^ Saiz, Luis Carlos; Gorricho, Javier; Garjón, Javier; Celaya, Mª Concepción; Muruzábal, Lourdes; Malón, Mª del Mar; Montoya, Rodolfo; López, Antonio (2017-10-11). "Blood pressure targets for the treatment of people with hypertension and cardiovascular disease". Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 10: CD010315. doi:10.1002/14651858.cd010315.pub2. PMID 29020435.
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Keeping track of your blood pressure is important. Your doctor can help you learn how to check your blood pressure at home. Each time you check your own blood pressure, record your numbers and the date. Send or take the log of your blood pressure readings with you for appointments with your doctor. Return to Screening for reminders on how to prepare for blood pressure testing. 

Adrenal insufficiency, for example, due to Addison's disease, can cause low blood pressure. Addison's disease is a disorder in which the adrenal glands (small glands next to the kidneys) are destroyed. The destroyed adrenal glands can no longer produce sufficient adrenal hormones (specifically cortisol) necessary to maintain normal bodily functions. Cortisol has many functions, one of which is to maintain blood pressure and the function of the heart. Addison's disease is characterized by weight loss, muscle weakness, fatigue, low blood pressure, and, sometimes, darkening of the skin.
Your total blood pressure reading is determined by measuring your systolic and diastolic blood pressures. Systolic blood pressure, the top number, measures the force your heart exerts on the walls of your arteries each time it beats. Diastolic blood pressure, the bottom number, measures the force your heart exerts on the walls of your arteries in between beats.
If your blood pressure is always on the low side and you do not have any of the above symptoms, there is usually no cause for concern. Similarly, if you have a single at-home blood pressure reading that is abnormally low without any symptoms, you probably do not need to see your doctor. It is normal for your blood pressure to rise and fall over time, and your body is usually able to get your blood pressure back to normal.
Stage 1 and Stage 2 hypertensions require therapy with anti-hypertensive drugs to bring down the blood pressure. Lifestyle modifications are also necessary, but often it is not sufficient for satisfactory control of blood pressure. Hypertension is often asymptomatic in the early course of disease. Symptoms like headache, lightheadedness, palpitations and easy fatigability may occur and chances of them being present increases with increasing blood pressure.
Normal blood pressure can differ substantially between breeds but hypertension in dogs is often diagnosed if systolic blood pressure is above 160 mm Hg particularly if this is associated with target organ damage.[170] Inhibitors of the renin-angiotensin system and calcium channel blockers are often used to treat hypertension in dogs, although other drugs may be indicated for specific conditions causing high blood pressure.[170]

Quitting smoking. Visit Smoking and Your Heart and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s Your Guide to a Healthy Heart [PDF – 2MB]. Although these resources focus on heart health, they include basic information about how to quit smoking. For free help and support to quit smoking, you can call the National Cancer Institute’s Smoking Quitline at 1-877-44U-QUIT (1-877-448-7848).
Optimal blood pressure is less than 120/80 (systolic/diastolic). In healthy people, low blood pressure without any symptoms is not usually a concern and does not need to be treated. But low blood pressure can be a sign of an underlying problem -- especially in the elderly -- where it may cause inadequate blood flow to the heart, brain, and other vital organs.
Many mechanisms have been proposed to account for the rise in peripheral resistance in hypertension. Most evidence implicates either disturbances in the kidneys' salt and water handling (particularly abnormalities in the intrarenal renin–angiotensin system)[61] or abnormalities of the sympathetic nervous system.[62] These mechanisms are not mutually exclusive and it is likely that both contribute to some extent in most cases of essential hypertension. It has also been suggested that endothelial dysfunction and vascular inflammation may also contribute to increased peripheral resistance and vascular damage in hypertension.[63][64] Interleukin 17 has garnered interest for its role in increasing the production of several other immune system chemical signals thought to be involved in hypertension such as tumor necrosis factor alpha, interleukin 1, interleukin 6, and interleukin 8.[65]
Some people have blood vessels that are stiff and lack elasticity, due to vascular disease. When this affects the tiny arteries (arterioles), the arteriolar stiffness causes increased resistance to the flow of blood and high blood pressure. This is most common in people who are also obese, have a lack of physical activity or exercise, have high salt intake, and are older.
If elevated blood pressure levels are accompanied by diabetes, kidney disease, or cardiovascular disease, your doctor may suggest blood pressure medication as well lifestyle changes. If elevated levels are your only condition, lifestyle changes can help prevent blood pressure from rising. The following are lifestyle changes that may help lower blood pressure:
Your doctor may suggest that you check your blood pressure at home. The easiest way to do this is to use a digital blood pressure monitor. You can get a monitor from your local drug store, hospital, clinic or online. Your doctor can help you find a monitor that is right for you and show you how to use it. Many pharmacies and grocery stores also have in-store monitors that you can use for free.
In Europe hypertension occurs in about 30-45% of people as of 2013.[12] In 1995 it was estimated that 43 million people (24% of the population) in the United States had hypertension or were taking antihypertensive medication.[141] By 2004 this had increased to 29%[142][143] and further to 32% (76 million US adults) by 2017.[7] In 2017, with the change in definitions for hypertension, 46% of people in the United States are affected.[7] African-American adults in the United States have among the highest rates of hypertension in the world at 44%.[144] It is also more common in Filipino Americans and less common in US whites and Mexican Americans.[6][145] Differences in hypertension rates are multifactorial and under study.[146]
If your blood pressure remains high for a long period of time, you run the risk of damaging your blood vessels. Your stroke risk rises significantly, too. And because your heart is working harder to push blood through your system, that very valuable muscle can become overworked and grow thicker. An enlarged heart causes further complications, including heart failure. Medications and special implantable pumps can help boost heart function. But if you can manage your blood pressure before it gets too high and puts your heart at risk, you may be able to avoid a lot of complications down the road.
Blood pressure refers to the force exerted by circulating blood on the walls of blood vessels and constitutes one of the principal vital signs. The pressure of the circulating blood decreases as blood moves through arteries, arterioles, capillaries, and veins; the term blood pressure generally refers to arterial pressure, i.e., the pressure in the larger arteries, arteries being the blood vessels which take blood away from the heart.

Heart attack. Signs of heart attack include mild or severe chest pain or discomfort in the center of the chest or upper abdomen that lasts for more than a few minutes or goes away and comes back. It can feel like pressure, squeezing, fullness, heartburn, or indigestion. There may also be pain down the left arm. Women may also have chest pain and pain down the left arm, but they are more likely to have less typical symptoms, such as shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, unusual tiredness, and pain in the back, shoulders, or jaw. Read more about the signs and symptoms of a heart attack.
Lynda is a registered nurse with three years experience on a busy surgical floor in a city hospital. She graduated with an Associates degree in Nursing from Mercyhurst College Northeast in 2007 and lives in Erie, Pennsylvania in the United States. In her work, she took care of patients post operatively from open heart surgery, immediately post-operatively from gastric bypass, gastric banding surgery and post abdominal surgery. She also dealt with patient populations that experienced active chest pain, congestive heart failure, end stage renal disease, uncontrolled diabetes and a variety of other chronic, mental and surgical conditions. Her Website.
If elevated blood pressure levels are accompanied by diabetes, kidney disease, or cardiovascular disease, your doctor may suggest blood pressure medication as well lifestyle changes. If elevated levels are your only condition, lifestyle changes can help prevent blood pressure from rising. The following are lifestyle changes that may help lower blood pressure:
Blood pressure is expressed by two measurements, the systolic and diastolic pressures, which are the maximum and minimum pressures, respectively.[1] For most adults, normal blood pressure at rest is within the range of 100–130 millimeters mercury (mmHg) systolic and 60–80 mmHg diastolic.[7][12] For most adults, high blood pressure is present if the resting blood pressure is persistently at or above 130/80 or 140/90 mmHg.[5][7] Different numbers apply to children.[13] Ambulatory blood pressure monitoring over a 24-hour period appears more accurate than office-based blood pressure measurement.[5][10]
Severe high blood pressure is referred to as malignant hypertension, in which the diastolic ("bottom") blood pressure reading is over 140 mmHg. Malignant hypertension is a medical emergency and can cause stroke. Symptoms can include nausea, severe headache, blurred vision, and dizziness. Some people with malignant hypertension may develop kidney failure. They may experience a decrease in urine output and swelling (edema), most pronounced in the lower legs.
Obesity: As body weight increases, the blood pressure rises. Obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30 kg/m. A BMI of 25-30 kg/m is considered overweight (BMI=weight in pounds x 703/ height in inches). Being overweight increases the risk of high blood pressure. Healthcare professionals recommend that all individuals who are obese and have high blood pressure lose weight until they are within 15% of their healthy body weight.
An exception to this is those with very high blood pressure readings especially when there is poor organ function.[79] Initial assessment of the hypertensive people should include a complete history and physical examination. With the availability of 24-hour ambulatory blood pressure monitors and home blood pressure machines, the importance of not wrongly diagnosing those who have white coat hypertension has led to a change in protocols. In the United Kingdom, current best practice is to follow up a single raised clinic reading with ambulatory measurement, or less ideally with home blood pressure monitoring over the course of 7 days.[79] The United States Preventive Services Task Force also recommends getting measurements outside of the healthcare environment.[80] Pseudohypertension in the elderly or noncompressibility artery syndrome may also require consideration. This condition is believed to be due to calcification of the arteries resulting in abnormally high blood pressure readings with a blood pressure cuff while intra arterial measurements of blood pressure are normal.[81] Orthostatic hypertension is when blood pressure increases upon standing.[82]
Hypertension, the medical term for high blood pressure, is known as "the silent killer." More than 80 million Americans (33%) have high blood pressure, and as many as 16 million of them do not even know they have the condition. If left untreated, high blood pressure greatly increases your risk for heart attack and stroke. Hypertension is projected to increase about 8 percent between 2013 and 2030.

For a manual monitor, you have to hold the pressure gauge in one hand (your weaker hand) and the bulb in the other hand. Inflate the cuff until it reads about 30 points above your normal systolic pressure. At this point, you should not hear your pulse in the stethoscope. When you hear the first heart beat, this is the systolic pressure. As you deflate the cuff, keep listening for a heart beat. When you can no longer hear it, that is your diastolic pressure.


Physical examination may include listening to the heart and lungs, feeling for pulse in the wrist and ankles, and feeling and listening to the abdomen looking for signs of an enlarged aorta. The examiner may also listen in the neck for carotid bruits (sounds made by a narrowed artery in the neck) and in the abdomen for bruits made by an abdominal aortic aneurysm.

Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
Excellent point! I can’t speak for anyone specifically, but I can say that generally, doctors make the worst patients. We don’t always follow the textbook guidelines nor abide by health recommendations. Then, there’s genetics, a pretty powerful force, and one over which we have little control. And, of course, there is just plain bad luck (or fate, finger of God, however you choose to describe it). So, many factors can come into play when a doctor gets diagnosed with what can otherwise be considered a preventable disease.

The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.

Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80. Knowing your blood pressure and remembering to check it regularly can help save your life. Choosing healthier, heart-conscious foods, maintaining a healthy weight, getting up and staying active, and managing your stress are great ways to help keep your blood pressure at the level it should be. Learn more about what you can do to help control your blood pressure.


^ Saiz, Luis Carlos; Gorricho, Javier; Garjón, Javier; Celaya, Mª Concepción; Muruzábal, Lourdes; Malón, Mª del Mar; Montoya, Rodolfo; López, Antonio (2017-10-11). "Blood pressure targets for the treatment of people with hypertension and cardiovascular disease". Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 10: CD010315. doi:10.1002/14651858.cd010315.pub2. PMID 29020435.
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