According to the CDC, nearly one in three U.S. adults is living with hypertension, but just about half of them are controlling it effectively. Also known as high blood pressure, hypertension can be dangerous. It increases the force against the artery walls, and over time can lead to damage of the brain, heart, and kidneys.

Fortunately, there are many steps you can take to control your blood pressure. The first is understanding what’s considered normal versus high blood pressure.

For systolic blood pressure (the upper number), the categories are as follows:

  • Normal: <120
  • Elevated: 120-129
  • Hypertension stage 1: 130-139
  • Hypertension stage 2: 140 or higher
  • Hypertensive crisis: higher than 180

For diastolic blood pressure (the lower number), the categories are:

  • Normal: less than 80
  • Elevated: less than 80 (and 120-129 systolic blood pressure)
  • Hypertension stage 1: 80-89
  • Hypertension stage 2: 90 or higher
  • Hypertensive crisis: higher than 120

You can set up an appointment with your doctor’s office to have your blood pressure taken, but sometimes this service is available at pharmacies or even through home kits. Once you know where you stand, you can begin addressing your blood pressure through the following tips:

Reduce Sodium Intake

Salt raises blood pressure in many people, and it can hide in sources you wouldn’t suspect. Frozen foods, canned food, and even some beverages can be high in sodium. Ideally, you should be taking in less than 2,300 milligrams of salt each day, or 1,500 milligrams or less if you’re over the age of 50.

Incorporate Fruits & Vegetables into Your Diet

Fruits and vegetables are inherently nutritious due to their lack of sodium, cholesterol, trans fat, and saturated fat—all of which can contribute to high blood pressure. As an added bonus, they’re typically low in calories, which can help you maintain a healthy weight, and they’re also loaded with key vitamins and minerals.

Get Moving

Exercise can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight, which contributes to healthy blood pressure. Adults should get at least a half-hour of moderate-intensity exercise each day, such as brisk walking. Children and teens should get an hour. While the risks of high blood pressure can be alarming, there are plenty of ways to get yours under control. Knowing your numbers and having ongoing conversations with your doctor can help you manage your blood pressure proactively.

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