Resources: Tips for Healthy Aging at Hebrew SeniorLife

How to Check Blood Pressure Regularly

High blood pressure affects approximately 73 million Americans, nearly one-third of whom are unaware they have high blood pressure. It is a major risk factor for heart disease, kidney disease and stroke, contributing to more than 275,000 deaths each year.

Blood pressure is a measurement of the forward thrust of blood against artery walls produced when the heart pumps blood to the rest of the body. The Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure (JNC7), supported by the National Institutes of Health, divides blood pressure into these categories:

Class Systolic Blood Pressure Diastolic Blood Pressure
Normal Less than 120 mm Hg AND..... Less than 80 mm Hg
Pre-hypertension 120-139 mm Hg OR................. 80-89 mm Hg
Hypertension    
Stage 1 140-159 mm Hg OR.................. 90-99 mm Hg
Stage 2 Greater than 160 mm Hg OR... Greater than 100 mm Hg

Lewis Lipsitz, M.D., director of the Institute for Aging Research at Hebrew SeniorLife, says you should have your blood pressure checked annually and possibly more often if you have borderline high or high blood pressure. He recommends the following for keeping your blood pressure under control:

  • Take blood pressure medications as prescribed.
  • Quit smoking.
  • Reduce sodium intake.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Maintain an appropriate body weight.

Keeping blood pressure under control, says Dr. Lipsitz, is important for maintaining overall health.

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