May is High Blood Pressure Education Month

High blood pressure education month.

In the United States, nearly 68 million people have high blood pressure, which is also called hypertension. Hypertension increases the risk for heart disease and stroke, the first and third leading causes of death in the United States.

Blood pressure that is slightly higher than normal is called prehypertension—28% of American adults have prehypertension (Internal analysis from NHANES 2005–2008). People with prehypertension are more likely to develop high blood pressure than are people with normal blood pressure levels.

Blood pressure is written as two numbers. The first (systolic) number represents the pressure when the heart beats. The second (diastolic) number represents the pressure when the heart rests between beats. The following is a classification system for blood pressure—

Normal blood pressure

systolic: less than 120 mmHg and
diastolic: less than 80 mmHg


systolic: 120–139 mmHg or
diastolic: 80–89 mmHg


systolic: 140 mmHg or higher or
diastolic: 90 mmHg or higher
taking antihypertensive medication

By the Numbers: 1 of 3

1 of 3

Adults have high blood pressure.

1 of 3

Adults with high blood pressure do not get treatment.

1 of 2

Adults with high blood pressure do not have it under control.

Quick Facts

Who Has High Blood Pressure

  • Women are about as likely as men to develop high blood pressure during their lifetimes. However, for people younger than 45 years, the condition affects more men than women. For people aged 65 years and older, it affects more women than men.
  • About 28% of American adults aged 18 years or older have prehypertension.
  • In the United States, high blood pressure is more common among blacks than whites. About 44% of black women have high blood pressure.
  • Mexican-Americans have the lowest level of hypertension compared to non-Hispanic whites and blacks.

Health Impact of High Blood Pressure

  • High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure, and kidney disease.
  • High blood pressure was a primary or contributing cause of death for 336,353 Americans in 2007.
  • There were more than 46 million visits to doctor’s offices for hypertension in 2007.

High Blood Pressure and Salt

  • A diet high in sodium (salt) increases the risk for higher blood pressure.
  • Most people eat more than double the amount of salt than they should.
  • Current dietary guidelines for Americans recommend that adults in general should consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day. At the same time, consume potassium-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables. However, if you are in the following population groups, you should consume no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day, and meet the potassium recommendation (4,700 mg/day) with food.
    • You are 51 years of age or older.
    • You are African American.
    • You have high blood pressure.
    • You have diabetes.
    • You have chronic kidney disease.
  • About 77% of the sodium Americans consume comes from processed and restaurant foods.
  • Watch this engaging video: Salt Matters: Preserving Choice, Protecting Health, available at to learn more about how salt affects your health

Preventing and Controlling High Blood Pressure

You can maintain healthy blood pressure by changing your lifestyle or combining lifestyle changes with prescribed medications.

Key lifestyle changes include the following—

  • Have your blood pressure checked regularly.
  • Maintain a normal body weight (body mass index (BMI) of 18.5–24.9; BMI is kilograms divided by height in meters squared). Click here to calculate your BMI.
  • Take at least 1 brisk 10-minute walk, 3 times a day, 5 days a week. Follow a healthy eating plan of a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low in sodium.
  • Quit smoking.
  • If you drink alcoholic beverages, do so in moderation (no more than 2 drinks per day for men and no more than 1 drink per day for women).
  • If you have high blood pressure and are prescribed medication(s), take as directed.

The most recent recommendations for detecting and treating high blood pressure are available from the Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure of the National Heart and Lung Institutes, National Institutes of Health, available at

Send an electronic Health-e-Card to someone to remind them to stay healthy.

CDC’s High Blood Pressure Efforts

Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention Program. CDC currently funds the development of effective strategies to prevent and control heart disease, stroke, and related risk factors in 41 states and the District of Columbia. The program emphasizes policy, environmental, and systems changes that promote heart-healthy and stroke-free living and working conditions.

For More Information

Please see the following additional CDC resources—

Please visit CDC’s partners for more information about high blood pressure—