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The Basics of Blood Pressure


High blood pressure is often referred to as the “silent killer.” It is a leading risk factor for heart disease and cardiovascular conditions, yet it can easily go undetected with no signs or symptoms. One in three adults living in Hawai‘i has high blood pressure. Many of these individuals do not have it under control1. An understanding of the basics of blood pressure can help manage your condition or prevent a future diagnosis.  

Blood pressure is the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your arteries. Each time your heart beats, it pumps blood into the arteries2. Throughout the day, your blood pressure will change based on your activities. It will rise when you exercise, and it will drop while sleeping.

Blood Pressure Numbers 

Testing your blood pressure is the only way to confirm if you have elevated and unhealthy levels. Your healthcare team will check your numbers during routine appointments. Blood pressure can also be measured at pharmacies, or at home with digital blood pressure monitors. 

A blood pressure measurement will include two numbers, systolic and diastolic. 

  • Systolic: This is the first number in the reading, and it indicates the amount of pressure when your heart is beating.
  • Diastolic: This is the second number in the reading, and it indicates the amount of pressure when your heart is at rest between beats.

The American Heart Association recognizes normal blood pressure as 120/80mm Hg or less3. This means a means a systolic measurement of 120 and a diastolic measurement of 80. The numbers for elevated and unhealthy levels are also recorded in this chart below. Speak with your healthcare team if your blood pressure levels are more than 120/80mm Hg.      

Treatments for High Blood Pressure

Blood pressure can damage your heart if it stays too high for a long period of time. After receiving a diagnosis for high blood pressure or hypertension, your healthcare team will recommend heart-healthy lifestyle changes. This will likely include a balanced diet that reduces sodium and an exercise plan to manage weight and strengthen your heart. Many individuals also benefit from blood pressure medications. 

Controlling your blood pressure levels can help prevent serious cardiovascular conditions. Be sure to schedule your routine healthcare appointments to have your blood pressure checked at least once each year. Knowing your numbers along with living a heart-healthy lifestyle can significantly impact the effect of this “silent killer”.




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