In our book, Hypertension Cookbook For Dummies®, we don’t just provide heart-healthy recipes, but discuss the important role lifestyle plays in controlling hypertension and reducing heart disease risk.

Why worry about blood pressure? Well, when you have high blood pressure, your arteries weaken over time. High blood pressure can be caused by excess weight, high cholesterol, or diet, but there is also a strong genetic factor. Women tend to get high blood pressure later in life, and more men suffer from it. African Americans are also at greater risk. The more cardiac risk factors you have, the greater your risk for the following:

  • Heart attack or stroke
  • Heart failure
  • Aneurysm (a bulge in a blood vessel)
  • Kidney damage

What is high blood pressure?

There are two numbers involved in blood pressure: Systolic and diastolic. The numbers are expressed together as in “120 over 70”. The systolic number is the “top” or first number. The diastolic number is the “bottom” or second number. Normal blood pressure is generally less than 120/80 mmHg (millimeters of mercury), although some physicians may recommend 115/75.

Prehypertension is considered to be a systolic reading of 120-139, with a diastolic reading of 80-89. This can lead to Stage 1 hypertension.

Mild Hypertension, or Stage 1, is a systolic reading between 140-159 and a diastolic reading between 90-99.

Moderate to Severe Hypertension, or Stage 2, is defines as a systolic reading over 160 and a diastolic reading over 100.

If you don’t know what your blood pressure is, check with your doctor. An annual exam is a good idea, especially over age 35. High blood pressure can have some symptoms, but you can’t see it and often don’t feel it. So even thought you may say “I feel fine!”, it’s important to have your blood pressure checked regularly. Your doctor can evaluate your blood pressure and determine what the best therapy is for you, considering your entire medical history.

In any case, weight management, proper diet, and exercise are key components of lifestyle change for high blood pressure and heart disease risk. Check out these tips or grab a copy of our book for more information, easy ways to make lifestyle changes, and recipes for eating well for hypertension!