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 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:
What is the difference between hypertension and prehypertension?
Are there any differences observed in lifetime heart disease risk trends between men and women?
How often should I see my primary care doctor?
How do I know if I'm overweight or obese?
How do risk factors that we can't control affect lifetime risk of heart disease?
Risk factors like blood pressure, cholesterol, smoking status and diabetes status are controllable through lifestyle changes and working with your doctor. Although there are risk factors that are out of our control, such as family history, patients can still greatly reduce their cardiovascular risk by addressing risk factors that they can control.
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.
Does cardiovascular risk differ among different races or ethnicities?
Yes. Research from 2012 shows that African-American adults have among the highest rates of hypertension in the world (44% vs. 33.5% of U.S. adults). African-Americans, Mexican-Americans, Hispanic/Latino individuals and other ethnic minorities are also disproportionately affected by diabetes, and Mexican-American and African American children are disproportionately affected by overweight and obesity.
How can Americans help reduce their cardiovascular risk?
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?
How are liprotein-a levels tested?
Why is hypertension so common in older individuals?