Blood Pressure: How to Manage It

Blood pressure is the force in the arteries when the heart beats (systolic pressure) and when the heart is at rest (diastolic pressure). It’s measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). High blood pressure (or hypertension) is defined in an adult as a blood pressure greater than or equal to 140 mm Hg systolic pressure or greater than or equal to 90 mm Hg diastolic pressure.

Do I have high blood pressure?

Blood Pressure








Stage 1 hypertension


Stage 2 hypertension


Severe hypertension

If you have one high blood pressure test, your doctor will repeat the test to confirm a diagnosis of high blood pressure (hypertension). If you blood pressure is 140/90 or higher over time, you doctor will likely diagnose you with high blood pressure.

Am I at risk?

You may be at extra risk for high blood pressure if you:

  • Are overweight
  • Have a family history of high blood pressure
  • Eat foods high in salt
  • Do not exercise regularly
  • Smoke
  • Drink alcohol more than two drinks/day for men or more than one drink/day for women

What can you do?

Step 1: Practice weight management

Control the calories you consume to take action in managing your weight. Did you know that 1 pound (lb) of body fat equals 3500 calories? Cutting back just 500 calories/day can promote a 1 lb weight loss/week. What does 500 calories look like? One 20-fluid-ounce (fl oz) bottle of regular cola plus one regular-sized candy bar equals approximately 500 calories. If you are overweight, just losing 5%-10% of your weight can significantly reduce your blood pressure!

 Step 2: Do not smoke

What are the benefits over time when smokers quit?

20 minutes after quitting

Your heart rate and blood pressure drops.

12 hours after quitting

The carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal.

2 weeks to 3 months after quitting

Your circulation improves, and your lung function increases.

1 to 9 months after quitting

Coughing and shortness of breath decrease; cilia (tiny hairlike structures that move mucous out of the lungs) regain normal function in the lungs, increasing the ability to handle mucous, clean the lungs, and reduce the risk of infection.

1 year after quitting

The excess risk of coronary heart disease is half that of someone who smokes.

5 years after quitting

Your stroke risk is reduced to that of a nonsmoker 5 to 15 years after quitting.

10 years after quitting

The lung cancer death rate is about half that of a smoker who does not quit. The risk of cancer of the mouth, throat, esophagus, bladder, cervix, and pancreas also decreases.

15 years after quitting

The risk of coronary heart disease is the same as a person who is a nonsmoker.

Source: American Cancer Society. Guide to quitting smoking. Available at:

For more information on Student Health’s Smoking Cessation services, click here.

Step 3: Exercise regularly

Aim for 30 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic activity on most days of the week. To know if you are working at a moderate intensity, rate your exercise on a scale from 1 to 10, where 1 is very easy and 10 is extremely hard. If you are working between a 4 and 7, then you are working at moderate intensity. Three 10-minute bouts of physical activity, such as walking, is equally as effective as one 30-minute bout.

Learn how to Move Well with Campus Health!

Step 4: Reduce your salt intake

Sodium (salt) is the main ingredient in salt that regulates body fluids and blood pressure. Sodium is a mineral that travels with water in the body. The more sodium you consume, the more fluid that leaves other places in your body to go into your bloodstream. This increases the volume of blood you have, which increases your blood pressure. Health experts recommend limiting sodium intake to less than 2300 mg/day to help lower or control blood pressure.

Note: If buying a convenience food, choose entrees (main course) with less than 800 mg of sodium/serving.

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