Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit, the AAFP patient education website.

Information from Your Family Doctor

High Blood Pressure: What You Should Know


Am Fam Physician. 2006 Jun 1;73(11):1957-1958.

  See related article on hypertension.

What is high blood pressure?

High blood pressure is when the pressure in your arteries is higher than it should be. If you have high blood pressure, you are more at risk of having a heart attack or a stroke. You also are more at risk of getting kidney disease and even of dying.

How do I know if I have high blood pressure?

Blood pressure is always given as two numbers, like “140 over 90,” or 140/90 mm Hg. Your blood pressure is high if the first number is more than 140 or the second number is more than 90.

What if I have heart or kidney problems or diabetes?

If you have heart or kidney problems or diabetes, your blood pressure needs to be lower than 130/80 mm Hg.

What can I do to help lower my blood pressure?

Here are some day-to-day changes that you can make to help lower your blood pressure:

  • Do not smoke cigarettes or use tobacco products. Smoking raises your blood pressure and puts you more at risk of heart attack and stroke. Your doctor can help you quit.

  • Drink less alcohol. Men should have no more than two alcoholic drinks per day and women should have no more than one alcoholic drink per day.

  • Lose weight. Losing 10 pounds can help lower your blood pressure. Talk to your doctor about what weight-loss program is right for you.

  • Get more exercise. You should exercise for 30 minutes per day, four or five days per week. This can include simple activities like walking the dog, walking in the park, or gardening. When you go to the store, park at the far end of the parking lot and walk. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Get up to change the channel on the TV instead of using the remote.

  • Cut down on salt. Most Americans eat two or three times more salt than they should. You should have no more than 2.4 grams (about one half teaspoon) of salt per day.

  • Eat healthy foods. You should eat four or five servings of fruits and four or five servings of vegetables each day. Make sure you get plenty of potassium, magnesium, and calcium in your diet.

Where can I get more information on lifestyle changes?

Your doctor.

American Academy of Family Physicians

Web site:

American Heart Association

Web site: (click on “healthy lifestyles”)

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

Web site:

Americans In Motion

Web site:

Shape Up America

Web site:

This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.


Copyright © 2006 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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May 2022

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