The term “heart disease” refers to several types of heart conditions. The most common type in the United States is coronary artery disease, which can cause heart attack, angina, heart failure, and arrhythmias.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for people of most ethnicities in the United States, including African Americans, Hispanics, and whites. For American Indians or Alaska Natives and Asians or Pacific Islanders, heart disease is second only to cancer.
Percentages of all deaths caused by heart disease in 2008, listed by ethnicity.
Race of Ethnic Group and % of Deaths
- African Americans: 24.5
- American Indians or Alaska Natives: 18.0
- Asians or Pacific Islanders: 23.2
- Hispanics: 20.8
- Whites: 25.1
- All: 25.0
Blood pressure is a measurement of the force against the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps blood through your body. Hypertension is another term used to describe high blood pressure.
Blood pressure readings are given as two numbers. The top number is called the systolic blood pressure. The bottom number is called the diastolic blood pressure. For example, 120 over 80.
High blood pressure is a common condition in which the long-term force of the blood against your artery walls is high enough that it may eventually cause health problems, such as heart disease.
Blood pressure is determined both by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries. The more blood your heart pumps and the narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure.
You can have high blood pressure (hypertension) for years without any symptoms. Even without symptoms, damage to blood vessels and your heart continues and can be detected. Uncontrolled high blood pressure increases your risk of serious health problems, including heart attack and stroke.
High blood pressure generally develops over many years, and it affects nearly everyone eventually. Fortunately, high blood pressure can be easily detected. Once you know you have high blood pressure, you can work with your doctor to control it.
Blood Pressure Matters
High blood pressure increases your risk for dangerous health conditions:
- First heart attack: About 7 of every 10 people having their first heart attack have high blood pressure.
- First stroke: About 8 of every 10 people having their first stroke have high blood pressure.
- Chronic (long lasting) heart failure: About 7 of every 10 people with chronic heart failure have high blood pressure.
- Kidney disease is also a major risk factor for high blood pressure.
Although you cannot control all of your risk factors for high blood pressure, you can take steps to prevent or control high blood pressure and its complications.
Talk to Your Health Care Team About Blood Pressure
Using team-based care that includes the patient, primary care provider, and other health care providers is a recommended strategy to reduce and control blood pressure.
Recommended BP Chart
American Health Association Blood Pressure CHART
What is the AHA recommendation for healthy blood pressure? This chart reflects blood pressure categories defined by the American Health Association.
Your healthcare providers will monitor you to get an accurate picture of your blood pressure and chart what happens over time.
A Single High BP Reading
A single high reading does not necessarily mean that you have high blood pressure. However, if readings stay at 140/90 mm Hg or above (systolic 140 or above OR diastolic 90 or above) over time, your doctor will likely want you to begin a treatment program. Such a program almost always includes lifestyle changes and often prescription medication for those with readings of 140/90 or higher.
When to Seek Emergency Medical Assistance
If, while monitoring your blood pressure, you get a systolic reading of 180 mm Hg or higher OR a diastolic reading of 110 mm HG or higher, wait a couple of minutes and take it again. If the reading is still at or above that level, you should seek immediate emergency medical treatment for a hypertensive crisis. If you can’t access the emergency medical services (EMS), have someone drive you to the hospital right away.