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"Blood pressure" is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps out blood. If this pressure rises and stays high over time, it's called high blood pressure. With high blood pressure, or hypertension, the blood can't flow easily through your blood vessels. This puts pressure on your vessels, which damages the vessels and strains your heart. As a result, blood doesn't flow as well to your organs, and you can have a heart attack, stroke, eye problems, or kidney problems. If your blood pressure is above normal range, but not high enough to have high blood pressure, then you have prehypertension. This means that you don't have high blood pressure now but are likely to develop it in the future. Even levels slightly above normal increase your heart disease risk.
High blood pressure has no symptoms. All people should have their blood pressure checked at least every two years. Ask your doctor if you need your blood pressure checked more often.
African-American women develop high blood pressure earlier in life and have higher average blood pressures compared with white women. Some things increase your chances of having high blood pressure:
Making some lifestyle changes can help prevent or control high blood pressure:
If you have high blood pressure or pre-high blood pressure, you have a higher risk of diabetes. Ask your doctor if you need to be tested for diabetes too.
Content last updated May 18, 2010.
Resources last updated May 18, 2010.