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Understanding Your Blood Pressure Numbers

Knowing your blood pressure numbers is one of the simplest ways to manage your health. In fact, because high blood pressure often has no signs or symptoms, your blood pressure numbers can be the only warning sign that you may have high blood pressure.

Your doctor may also discuss ways that high blood pressure can be prevented and controlled. In fact, we have more knowledge about prevention and better treatment options than ever before to help reach our goal to detect, prevent, and control high blood pressure for every Kaiser Permanente member.

How to Take An Accurate Blood Pressure

Whether your blood pressure is being taken at the doctor’s office or by you in your home, the most accurate way to check blood pressure is as follows:

  • Sit comfortably and relaxed for at least 5 minutes with feet flat on the floor.
  • Have your arm bared and at heart level – do not hold your arm straight out.
  • If your sleeve is rolled up, make sure it doesn’t pinch your arm.
  • Do not talk or move during the blood pressure check.
  • Make sure you take your blood pressure at the same time every day.

If you are taking your blood pressure at home, be sure to use the correct cuff size. In fact, we recommend that you bring in your equipment to your next doctor visit to verify your measurement technique and cuff size.

What is Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure is the pressure of the blood against the walls of the arteries and is measured by using a blood pressure cuff.

What is High Blood Pressure or Hypertension?

Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure. It doesn’t refer to being tense, nervous or hyperactive. You can be a calm, relaxed person and still have hypertension.

Hypertension can lead to other life-threatening illness including heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. It makes the heart work too hard, hardens the walls of the arteries, and can cause the brain to hemorrhage or the kidneys to function poorly or not at all.

A single elevated blood pressure reading doesn’t mean you have high blood pressure, but it’s a sign that further observation is required. Work with your doctor on ways you can prevent high blood pressure through diet and exercise.

You can find out more by reading through our “High blood pressure? Here’s what you can do” brochure which includes more information on hypertension and what you can do to prevent or lower your blood pressure, and a chart for you to track your blood pressure numbers.

Controlling Your Blood Pressure

Know your blood pressure numbers and work closely with your doctor about ways to keep your blood pressure under control. This may include simple lifestyle changes of being physically active, not smoking, reducing your stress and following a balanced diet.

If you need help with lifestyle changes (e.g.: tobacco cessation , weight management) visit our health education center for more information. And, if you need medication, make sure you understand what it’s for and how and when to take it. Be proactive and discuss your blood pressure with your doctor at every visit.

Dietary Approaches To Stop Hypertension (DASH)

The DASH eating plan is rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and low in fat and fat-free dairy products. These foods are also naturally low in sodium and contain nutrients that may help lower blood pressure. Even if you don’t have high blood pressure, eating this way can help prevent increases in blood pressure that occur as you get older. Read through our DASH diet brochure which includes a sample menu.

Hypertension Medication

If you have high blood pressure, your doctor may prescribe blood pressure medications to help lower it. Read through information about Prinzide, a commonly prescribed hypertension medication, or view information about other medications such as ACE inhibitors that you may be asked to use.