Answers to Common Questions
Find out which numbers and levels everyone should know and what they can tell us about our heart health.
What is a healthy blood pressure?
What do my blood pressure numbers mean?
Your blood pressure reading has two parts. The top number (systolic) represents the pressure of the blood against your arteries when your heart contracts. The lower number (diastolic) is the pressure between beats when your heart muscle relaxes. Both numbers are important. Your doctor or nurse can check your blood pressure during an office visit. You can also measure your blood pressure yourself with a home device. Keep in mind that your blood pressure will rise and fall depending on the time of the day and how active you are. It is more accurate to look at overall trends rather than a single number.
Blood pressure is directly associated with the risk of cardiovascular disease. Ideal blood pressure is below 120/80. Your risk goes up proportionally as your blood pressure rises above that level. If your blood pressure is elevated, your doctor will recommend that you make changes to your diet and exercise habits. You may also need to take blood pressure lowering medicines.
Systolic (mm Hg)
Diastolic (mm Hg)
less than 120
less than 80
160 or higher
100 or higher
What factors impact lipoprotein-a levels?
What else can I do to control my blood pressure?
Making dietary changes to reduce sodium intake is a big part of blood pressure control. But, there are other things you can do to help lower your blood pressure and improve your heart health. Here are a few:
Why is hypertension so common in older individuals?
What is the difference between hypertension and prehypertension?
What should I do to reduce my heart attack risk?
How accurate is nutritional information in fast-food and sit-down restaurants?
How can Americans help reduce their cardiovascular risk?
How are liprotein-a levels tested?
How do I know if I have high cholesterol?
How do I know if I'm overweight or obese?
How do home blood pressure monitors work?
There are two main types of home blood pressure monitors that patients can use to track their blood pressure on their own—manual and automatic. Manual blood pressure monitors are similar to those that doctors might use to take your blood pressure, while automatic monitors are electronic monitors that can report your numbers digitally and even integrate with other digital health tools. Both can be very easy to use and useful in helping monitor blood pressure in between doctor visits.
Are there any differences observed in lifetime heart disease risk trends between men and women?