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Healthy Blood Pressure

American Heart Month is a great time to spread the word to help people learn more about cardiovascular health. An essential part of heart health is having healthy blood pressure, a primary cause of heart disease and stroke.

As a heart beats, it pumps blood through vessels, called arteries, to the body. Blood pressure is the measure of the amount of force a person’s blood exerts on the walls of the blood vessels. The pressure is impacted by the resistence on the blood vessels and how hard the hard has to work to pump blood.

High blood pressure is also called hypertension, a primary risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular disease includes stroke, heart attack, heart failure, and aneurysm. Maintaining healthy blood pressure is crucial to good heart health by reducing the risk of those conditions.

When our hearts are beating faster, pumping blood raises blood pressure. When blood pressure is measured, it is recorded as two numbers. The systolic number is the first number and indicates the pressure in the vessels when the heart is contracting and beating. The diastolic number measures the pressure in the vessels when the heart is resting in between beats.

Depending on our activities, blood pressure will change during the day. An average adult’s blood pressure is less than 120 over 80 millimeters of mercury. Hypertension can be diagnosed when it is measured on two days, and the systolic blood pressure readings on both days are ≥140 mmHg and the diastolic blood pressure readings on both days are ≥90 mmHg.

Called a “silent killer,” because most people are unaware they have high blood pressure, a person with hypertension may not have any warning signs or early symptoms. This is why it is vital to regularly monitor blood pressure.

If symptoms are present, they can present as headaches, nosebleeds, changes in vision, buzzing in the ears, and even irregular heart rhythms. In addition, severe hypertension can cause fatigue, nausea, vomiting, confusion, anxiety, chest pain, and muscle tremors.

People do not develop high blood pressure over night. It generally takes time to develop. Causes can be a lack of regular physical activities, diabetes, and obesity. Some women develop high blood pressure during pregnancy.

Untreated high blood pressure can cause significant damage to essential organs such as the eyes, brain, heart, and kidneys. Fortunately, high blood pressure can be managed to lower the risk of these health problems.

Treatments for high blood pressure include heart-healthy lifestyle changes and medicines. While making lifestyle changes can be challenging, try changing one thing. After you are used to the first change, try adding another one. Lifelong heart-healthy changes will take time but are effective when you consistently practice them together.

Sometimes healthy lifestyle changes alone fail to manage hypertension. When this happens, the doctor may prescribe blood pressure medicines. It is still essential to maintain your healthy changes even though you have the medicine. It is the most effective in preventing heart diseases when you combine healthy choices with medicine.

Tips for Prevention of Heart Disease

  • Reduce salt intake (to less than 5g daily).
  • Eat more fruit and vegetables.
  • Limit the intake of foods high in saturated fats.
  • Eliminate/reduce trans fats in the diet.
  • Be physically active regularly (30 minutes, five days a week).
  • Do not smoke or use tobacco.
  • Reduce or avoid alcohol consumption.
  • Get at least 7 hours of sleep every night.


  • Aim for a healthy weight.
  • Reduce and manage stress.
  • Regularly check blood pressure.
  • Treat high blood pressure.
  • Manage other medical conditions.

High blood pressure cannot be cured. However, it can be managed effectively through lifestyle changes and, when needed, medication.

The best ways to protect yourself from hypertension are being aware of the risks and making changes that matter. By living a healthy lifestyle, you can maintain safe blood pressure.


Written by Vicki Hayman, MS, University of Wyoming Extension Nutrition and Food Safety Educator


  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,

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Extension Educator:
Vicki Hayman – (307) 746-3531

University of Wyoming Extension

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Extension Educator:
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Issued in furtherance of extension work, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Kelly Crane, Director, University of Wyoming Extension, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Wyoming Extension, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming 82071.

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