Yale Health

High Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your arteries. Each time your heart beats, it pumps out blood into the arteries. Your blood pressure is highest when your heart beats, pumping the blood. When your heart is at rest, between beats, your blood pressure falls. High blood pressure is also known as hypertension.

High blood pressure usually has no symptoms, but it can cause serious problems such as stroke, heart failure, heart attack, and kidney failure.

Know Your Numbers

Your blood pressure reading uses two numbers, the systolic and diastolic pressures. Usually they are written one above or before the other.

  • The systolic number shows how hard the blood pushes when the heart is pumping.

  • The diastolic number shows how hard the blood pushes between heartbeats, when the heart is relaxed and filling with blood.

About 1 out of 3 adults in the United States has high blood pressure.

CATEGORYSYSTOLICDIASTOLIC
Normal blood pressure Less than 120 Less than 80
At risk for high blood pressure 120-139 80-89
High blood pressure 140 or higher (150 or higher for those over 60 years old) 90 or higher

Home Blood Pressure Monitoring

Checking your blood pressure at home is important to help you and your clinician to see if you are at risk for hypertension. Home blood pressure monitoring systems are available at the Yale Health Pharmacy. Call 203-0432-0033 for more information.

  • Use a blood pressure cuff that fits your arm.

  • The first time you take your blood pressure at home, take a reading on both arms. After that, use the arm that had the highest reading.

  • Rest for five minutes before taking your blood pressure.

  • Wait 30 minutes after drinking alcohol, smoking or exercising to take your blood pressure

  • Sit with your back against a chair and both feet on the floor. Rest your arm on a table at heart level. Do not cross your legs.

  • Take your blood pressure twice a day for seven days and record it using this blood pressure log. Share these numbers with your clinician.