Take control of your blood pressure: a 5-step plan

Some 68 million people (that’s 1 in 3 U.S. adults) have high blood pressure, also called hypertension. High blood pressure often has no symptoms but can damage the heart, brain, and kidneys. That’s why it’s known as “the silent killer.” Many people don’t know they have high blood pressure, and even among those who do, half still don’t have it controlled well enough.

Two recently published studies report important new findings on high blood pressure.

home monitoring blood pressure

High blood pressure? Self-monitoring is recommended to help you better control your numbers.

The first found that blood pressure levels among children and teenagers have risen over the past 13 years. Looking at data on children in the U.S., the study reports that about 19% of boys and 12% of girls either have high blood pressure (hypertension) or are at risk for high blood pressure (prehypertension). The study’s authors also show how children and teenagers who use lots of salt and are obese are more likely to have high blood pressure.

The second study reports a better way to control blood pressure for adults. Self-monitoring of blood pressure and ”coaching” by pharmacists helped patients more effectively than their current approach to care.

Here are five steps you can take to prevent or treat high blood pressure:

1) Know your numbers.

Get your blood pressure checked regularly­ — and check your pressure yourself at home. The top (systolic) and bottom (diastolic) numbers of a blood pressure reading are measured as millimeters of mercury (mmHg). Keep these figures in mind:

blood pressure monitor

Know your numbers: a reading like this is above the “normal” range.

Systolic: less than 120 mmHg; Diastolic: less than 80mmHg

Prehypertension (“at risk”)
Systolic: 120–139 mmHg; Diastolic: 80–89 mmHg

Systolic: 140 mmHg or higher; Diastolic: 90 mmHg or higher

2) Keep your weight in check and exercise.

Keep your weight at a healthy level. A heart-healthy diet promotes good blood pressure, while drinking too much alcohol is associated with high blood pressure. Also, regular, moderate exercise — at least 30 minutes daily — can lower your blood pressure as well as benefit your overall health.

3) Reduce your salt intake.

Too much salt can raise your blood pressure and put you at risk for health problems. The recommendation is 1,500 milligrams per day for anyone with high blood pressure; those with normal blood pressure and no other health conditions that don’t allow for higher salt intake should use no more than 2,300 milligrams of salt (about a teaspoon) daily. The CDC reports that like adults, children and teenagers get most of their salt from processed foods and take-out meals.

4) If you have hypertension, take medicine as prescribed. 

Medicines only work if you follow your doctor’s directions. You can sign up and receive automated reminders when it’s time to refill your prescription.

5) Learn more about heart health.

Learn about how to live a heart-healthy life by accessing the American Heart Association’s My Life Check health assessment tool.

Many pharmacies offer free blood pressure testing. Plus, pharmacists can answer many of your health and medicine questions.

Be well, stay well ~

Pharmacist Andy

Balance Rewards for healthy choices™

Walgreens’ Balance Rewards for healthy choices™ program (formerly Steps) is just one tool to help you make healthy choices by rewarding you for tracking your blood pressure, exercise, weight, sleep and more. Learn more and get started ›

  • Ann Marie Proia

    Too bad you are not up to date on the latest medical findings on healthy blood pressure numbers. I would trust what you claim more if you were aware of the correct numbers. Drug companies encourage inaccurate information so they can profit on providing unnecessary drugs..

    • Walgreens

      Thanks for the input – here’s the source used for the article: http://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/facts.htm.

      If there are conflicting sources out there, that’s great information to have!

    • http://gravatar.com/nancyheart nancyheart

      Ms. Proia, what are YOU saying the numbers should be?

    • http://none Darleen

      So what ARE the up-to-date numbers? And who says so?

  • Linda Hine

    My Blood Pressure has been checked at least twice a week and sometimes 3. This has been going on for 4 months. How do I get the points on my Balance Rewards?
    Linda Hine

    • Walgreens

      Hi, you can log in or create a new account here: walgreens.com/healthychoices.

      Then, in the dashboard, click on the heart icon to log your reading. You can even sync up a blood pressure monitor to earn points for your blood pressure readings automatically. Here’s the FAQ page for more info: http://www.walgreens.com/topic/help/steps-balance-rewards.jsp

  • leora Broche

    Are you going to move your headquarters to Switzerland to avoid U.S. taxes? If so I will have to reconsider our seemingly good relationship.

  • http://WalgreensStayWell. Sandra Robbins

    I would like to know if I can get a blood pressure monitors on my insurance.

  • http://WalgreensStayWell. Sandra Robbins

    I have a very high blood pressure that stay on the rise. That is why I ask about the blood pressure monitor. I do really need one to keep track of my numbers myself.

  • Walgreens

    Hi, this may be a question to ask your doctor and/or other health care provider. The study cited in this article does show some evidence that tracking blood pressure yourself can help improve results.

  • http://N/A Ruth


    Perhaps, it would be helpful to explain to Sandra Robbins and others that read the article why you could not answer this health related question. The reason? The question is too general (not knowing who her insurance provider is and what her doctor’s views on the subject are prevents you from giving her an answer). That way no one feels that you are “passing the buck” so to speak. :)