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High Blood Pressure

“Blood pressure” is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps blood. If this pressure rises and stays high over time, it can damage the body in many ways.

Blood pressure is measured as systolic and diastolic pressures. “Systolic” refers to blood pressure when the heart beats while pumping blood. “Diastolic” refers to blood pressure when the heart is at rest between beats.

The table below shows normal blood pressure numbers for adults. It also shows which numbers put you at greater risk for health problems.

Categories for Blood Pressure Levels in Adults
(measured in millimeters of mercury, or mmHg)

Category Systolic (top number) Diastolic (bottom number)
Normal Less than 120 AND Less than 80
Prehypertension 120–139 OR 80–89
High blood pressure
Stage 1 140–159 OR 90–99
Stage 2 160 or higher OR 100 or higher

Symptoms of High Blood Pressure May Include:

  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Drowsiness or confusion
  • Chest pain
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet
  • Bloody cough

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