What You Need to Know About High Blood Pressure

Updated October 18, 2023

Crystal Tyson, MD, a Duke nephrologist, answers common questions regarding your blood pressure.

Why is it important to keep blood pressure within a normal range?

Normal blood pressure in an adult is less than 120/80 mmHg. Elevated blood pressure increases a person’s risk for kidney disease, heart attack, stroke, and other conditions. 

What do the top number (systolic) and bottom number (diastolic) mean?

Systolic blood pressure is the amount of pressure that is generated within the walls of the arteries after the heart contracts and pumps blood out to the rest of the body. Diastolic blood pressure is the amount of tension that remains in the walls of the arteries after the heart relaxes. 

How can I lower my blood pressure?

People need to work closely with their doctors to find the right combination of medications. Additionally, it is just as important to make lifestyle changes: maintain a normal body weight, following the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, reducing sodium in the diet, and exercising at least 30 minutes per day most days of the week. 

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High Blood Pressure