high blood pressure

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High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure (hypertension) is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke, which together kills more New Yorkers than any other disease. Blood pressure is the force of blood moving through your blood vessels. The higher it is, the more damage it can do to the inside of your blood vessels. High blood pressure can also lead to problems with your kidneys, eyes and to sexual dysfunction.

About one in four New Yorkers has high blood pressure, but there are usually no symptoms. Black and Latino adults are more likely to have high blood pressure than other races/ethnicities.

Everyone should know their blood pressure. You can get it checked by asking your health care provider, visiting a pharmacy or checking it yourself using a home monitor.

Follow these tips to make sure you get the right blood pressure measurement every time (PDF).
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Understanding Your Blood Pressure Numbers

Blood pressure is reported with two numbers, one written over the other. The top number, systolic blood pressure, reflects the amount of pressure in your arteries when your heart squeezes to pump blood. The bottom number, diastolic blood pressure, reflects the amount of pressure in your arteries when your heart relaxes between heartbeats.

For People Not Diagnosed with Hypertension

Systolic (upper)Diastolic (lower)Category and Recommended Action
Below 120 and Below 80 Normal. No action necessary.
120–139 or 80–89 Elevated. Talk with your your health care provider at your normally scheduled visit.
140–179 or 90–109 High. Talk with your health care provider soon.
180 or Higher or 110 or Higher Dangerously High. You could be in danger. Get medical care immediately.

For People Diagnosed with Hypertension

Systolic (upper)Diastolic (lower)Category and Recommended Action
Below 139 and Below 89 Normal. No action necessary.
140–179 or 90–109 High. Talk with your health care provider soon.
180 or Higher or 110 or Higher Dangerously High. You are in danger. Get medical care immediately.

How to Maintain a Healthy Blood Pressure

There are many steps you can take to make your diet more heart healthy:

  • Limit salt (sodium) intake. Even if you are not being treated for high blood pressure, you can benefit from watching your sodium.
    • Limit processed foods and stick to lower sodium options.
    • Learn more about salt and how to limit your intake by reading Health Bulletin: Cut the Salt! (PDF)
  • Choose healthy beverages, such as water. Avoid sugary drinks and risky alcohol use.
  • Eat a lot of colorful fruits and vegetables, lean protein, such as fish and beans, low-fat dairy and whole grains.
  • Switch to healthier fats.

For more information on sticking to a heart-healthy diet:

Get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity (such as a brisk walk) at least five days a week.

You can find opportunities for physical activity through NYC Parks, such as free Shape Up NYC classes. There are also indoor recreation center memberships available, including discounts for seniors ages 62 and older, veterans, young adults, youth and people with disabilities.

If you're older than 60, you can find heart healthy activities at a nearby senior center.

For more exercise tips:

It can be hard to quit smoking. Most people try several times before they are able to quit for good. The good news is it can be done. For more information on smoking, including tips and resources for quitting, visit NYC Quits.


If You Have Been Diagnosed with High Blood Pressure

Monitoring your blood pressure in between office visits can be an important part of your treatment and care. Talk to your health care provider about how often you should check your blood pressure. Find a free blood pressure kiosk at a pharmacy near you.

There are different kinds of blood pressure monitors. Most people prefer “automated” monitors that only require you to push a button after you put the cuff on your arm. You can buy these at pharmacies. Your health insurance may cover the cost if you are prescribed a monitor.

If your health care provider prescribes medicine, take it as directed. Even if your numbers get better, it is important to keep taking your medicine so your numbers stay that way.

If you have trouble taking your medicine as prescribed, talk with your health care provider or pharmacist about options.

For help managing your medicine:

Additional Resources

  • One in Four New Yorkers campaign
  • More Information