Know where you stand
Be aware of the things that can elevate your blood pressure reading before you go in—but definitely get your BP tested regularly. “High blood pressure is silent so you don’t know if yours is elevated unless you get tested during your annual physical,” says Ali Rahimi, MD, a cardiologist at Kaiser Permanente in Atlanta. Don’t miss these surprising things you didn’t know were affecting your blood pressure.
Understand the numbers
Normal blood pressure is defined as a systolic pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading that measures heart beats while pumping blood) below 120 mm/Hg and a diastolic pressure (the lower number that reflects the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats) below 80 mm/Hg. “Know your numbers and what they mean so you can prevent heart attacks and strokes by taking action to lower your blood pressure if it is elevated,” says Dr. Rahimi. Anything above this may indicate a problem or the early stages of one.