Understanding and Taking Control of Your High Blood Pressure

By Priyanka Anand and Neil Menon

This is an updated version of an article that appeared in our Winter 2017 Issue.


Most people have heard of high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Almost half of all adults in the United States have high blood pressure, so this is very common.

What is high blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the pressure of your blood pushing against your blood vessels. When you have your blood pressure taken, the doctor or nurse will give you two numbers: your systolic blood pressure and your diastolic blood pressure. Your systolic blood pressure is your highest blood pressure, when your heart is contracting, and the diastolic is your lowest blood pressure, when your heart is relaxed. For example, if your blood pressure is 120/80 (“one-twenty over eighty”), you have a systolic blood pressure of 120, and a diastolic blood pressure of 80.

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