Blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a measurement of the force against the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps blood through your body.\nBlood pressure readings are usually given as two numbers \u2013 120 over 80 for example \u2013 and written as 120\/80 mmHg. The top number is called the systolic blood pressure and the bottom is called the diastolic blood pressure. One or both of these numbers can be too high.\nWhat Do These Numbers Mean?\nIt is normal for your blood pressure to fluctuate based on the time of day. With that in mind:\n\nIf your blood pressure is 120\/80 mmHg or most of the time, it is considered to be normal\nIf your blood pressure is 140\/90 mmHg or higher most of the time, it is considered high blood pressure or hypertension\nIf your blood pressure is over 120\/80 mmHg, but below 140\/90 mmHg most of the time, it is considered pre-hypertension\n\nHypertension Risk Factors\nThere are many factors that affect blood pressure including:\n\nThe amount of salt and water in your body\nYour hormone levels\nThe condition of your kidneys, nervous system, or blood\u00a0 vessels\n\nYou have a higher risk of blood pressure if you:\n\nAre of African American descent\nHave a family history of high blood pressure\nHave diabetes\nAre a smoker\nAre obese\nDrink too much alcohol (more than one drink per day for women; more than two drinks per day for men)\nConsume too much salt in your diet\nAre often stressed or anxious\n\nWhy is High Blood Pressure Dangerous?\nHigh blood pressure is dangerous because it adds to your heart\u2019s workload and over time, your heart may become enlarged and not be able to meet your body\u2019s needs.\nHigh blood pressure also affects your arteries. The arteries harden as we get older and high blood pressure accelerates this process. Sometimes hardened arteries can become narrowed by a buildup of plaque. This condition is called atherosclerosis. If left unchecked, this can lead to chest pain, heart disease, heart attack, or even death.\nWhat Can I do About High Blood Pressure?\nThe good news is that high blood pressure is preventable, treatable, and there are many things you can do to control your blood pressure including:\n\nEating a heart-healthy diet and drinking plenty of water\nExercising regularly, reducing stress, and maintaining a healthy body weight\nLimiting your salt and alcohol intake\nQuitting smoking\n\nIf you think you may have, or be at risk for high blood pressure, consult your primary care physician or visit UPMC\u2019s Heart and Vascular Institute.\nLearn more about your heart health by attending a free heart screening event.