Woman having her blood pressure checked by female doctor

Maintaining a normal blood pressure range can help you prevent high blood pressure, which can lead to heart attacks, heart failure, stroke, brain and kidney damage, vision loss, erectile dysfunction and even death.

What is a healthy blood pressure level?

Blood pressure is considered normal if it is 120/80 or slightly lower. The higher blood pressure is above 120/80, the greater the risk of high blood pressure (hypertension) and heart disease.

High blood pressure risk factors

There are some things you can and can’t control regarding high blood pressure.1

Things you can control:

  • Being overweight or obese: The more you weigh, the more blood you need to bring nutrients to your tissues. As the volume of blood goes up, so does the pressure against artery walls.
  • Not being physically active: Inactive people tend to have faster heart rates. That makes the force of blood against your arteries harder.
  • Smoking or using tobacco: Tobacco use immediately raises your blood pressure on a temporary basis.
  • Diet: Too much salt, too little potassium and too little vitamin D put you at risk.
  • Alcohol consumption: Drinking too much alcohol can increase your risk.

Things you can somewhat control:

  • Stress: High levels of stress can lead to a temporary, but dramatic, rise in blood pressure.
  • Specific conditions: High cholesterol, diabetes, kidney disease and sleep apnea can contribute to high blood pressure.
  • Pregnancy: Sometimes, pregnancy contributes to high blood pressure as well.

Things you can’t control:

  • Age: The risk rises as you age. Through early middle age, it is more common in men. Women are more likely to develop it after menopause.
  • Race: African Americans have a higher risk of high blood pressure than others.2
  • Family history: A family history of high blood pressure can increase your risk.

If you believe you have any of these risk factors, consult your doctor.

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  1. “High Blood Pressure (Hypertension),” Mayo Clinic, last accessed January 15, 2021, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/basics/risk-factors/con-20019580, opens new window.
  2. “Risk Factors for High Blood Pressure,” National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, last accessed January 15, 2021, https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/hbp/atrisk, opens new window.