How do I know if I have high blood pressure?

Dr. Lauren E. Frost, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

You can know if you have high blood pressure with regular screenings. Blood pressure is composed of two measurements: systolic pressure and diastolic pressure. The systolic pressure (top number) is the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats, and the diastolic pressure (bottom number) is the pressure in the arteries when the heart is resting and filling between beats.

  • Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80.
  • The pre-hypertension category includes systolic pressures between 120 and 139, and diastolic pressures between 80 and 89.
  • Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is diagnosed after several readings over time are greater than 140/90. 

Adults should have their blood pressure checked at least every two years.

This content originally appeared online at Baptist Health South Florida.

Your healthcare professional should check your blood pressure at least once every two years, and more often if it's high. A high blood pressure diagnosis is usually based on at least the average of two or more readings per visit, taken at two different visits after an initial screening.

The only way to properly check your blood pressure is to measure it with a device called a sphygmomanometer, commonly called a blood pressure cuff. This is a quick and painless test in which a rubber cuff is wrapped around your upper arm and inflated. As the cuff inflates, it compresses a large artery, stopping the blood's flow through that artery. When your healthcare professional releases the air in the cuff, he or she can listen with a stethoscope for the blood to start flowing through your artery again. Your healthcare professional can watch the sphygmomanometer gauge to determine systolic pressure -- the pressure when the first sound of pulsing blood is heard -- and the diastolic pressure, the pressure when the last sound of pulsing blood is heard.

Get it measured, frequently. Hypertension or high blood pressure is the pressure in your arteries that drives blood with all its nutrients (like oxygen, and glucose) into your tissues to nourish your cells and that removes waste products like carbon dioxide. It is usually reported as two numbers—a higher one that reflects pressure in your arteries when your heart is contracting or squeezing blood into your vessels, and a lower diastolic that occurs when your heart is relaxing.

You are right to want to know about your blood pressure, as keeping it normal 115/75 is the ideal is most important to keeping you getting older organs—from your heart and brain, to your kidneys, gonads and skin. High blood pressure is anything greater than 115/75 in the YOU DOCs book (as anything greater than that ages you unnecessarily) but it is usually not called hypertension by the medical establishment till either the systolic is over 130, or the diastolic is over 85, or both.While there are a few symptoms of hypertension like pounding headaches that occur in a few people with high blood pressure, most times it silent -- and a silent ager and killer. Now if you take your blood pressure during exercise or right after a fight with your mate or boss, it will be high. In fact if you take your BP 6 times, you will probably get 6 different readings. And it tends to increase as your calendar age advances. So measure it frequently, when you are quiet for at least three minutes and after a few deep breaths. Even though that is what we call your BP, the fluctuations reflect aging of your arteries too. So you want 115/75 all the time, and do whatever you can to get it to 115/75.

High blood pressure is sometimes called a "silent killer." That's because it often brings no symptoms at all.

The only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to measure it. This should happen at every doctor's visit. You can also check your blood pressure on your own with a machine that has a cuff that goes around your arm. Many pharmacies and stores have a machine that you can use for free.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

Over 50 million American adults have high blood pressure, also called hypertension. The scariest part is that 1 out of every 3 isn't even aware they have this serious medical condition. High blood pressure can cause a host medical problems including cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease and stroke, which can strike suddenly. Here's how to find out if you have high blood pressure:

  • The first step is to get your blood pressure tested. Learn how to check your own blood pressure and invest in a device you can use at home.
  • Get in the habit of testing your blood pressure once a month. Make sure each time to test it at the same point in the day, when you're most relaxed. For accuracy, take 3 readings and figure out the average.
  • Pay attention to the top number - the systolic pressure, which indicates the pressure when the heart beats while pumping blood. It's the best lifelong measurement for hypertension. A systolic reading above 140 is considered too high and warrants seeing your doctor.

This content originally appeared on

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.