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Blood Pressure Facts
Blood pressure measures the pressure of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries (vessels which carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body). A normal blood pressure is less than 120/80 mmHg. The “top number” is called systolic pressure (when your heart is contracting during a beat) and the “bottom number” is called diastolic pressure (when your heart is resting between beats).

Blood pressure can change through the day and night and also vary based on your mood and activities. When blood pressure is persistently elevated, this can result in the diagnosis of hypertension. Often people have NO symptoms with hypertension and they only way to know is to get your blood pressure checked. When your blood pressure is high (especially for prolonged periods of time), this causes damage to your blood vessels. Over time, this damage can cause serious health problems like stroke, heart disease, kidney disease, and eye problems. Hypertension often runs in families but people can also develop hypertension when no one else in the family has it.

Credit: CDC
Hypertension complications image showing blood vessel damage compared to a normal vessel. It also shows a stroke, heart attack and kidney damage.


There are lots of ways to get your blood pressure into a healthy range or help keep it in a healthy range without medicine. These are often called “lifestyle changes.”

  • Not smoking
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Managing stress
  • Eating a healthy diet (low in sodium and alcohol)
  • Getting at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week

Below you can find more information:

Diet changes

Eating less processed foods (take out, pre-prepared foods, canned foods, lunchmeat) are a good way to start as they are often high in sodium (salt). Loading up on veggies and fruits is helpful. Avoid adding salt to foods and try adding other salt-free spices instead. Moderating alcohol use is key to helping blood pressure. Although alcohol is a “downer,” it has opposite effects on blood pressure. Still not sure how to help your diet? Schedule an appointment with a registered dietician (for free!) at Health Promotion and Wellness (located in the IM building) –call 814-863-0461.

Get moving

All physical activity is good activity! Try to be as active as possible, striving for 150 minutes of physical activity per week (just 30 minutes/day for 5 days). Regular activity (brisk walk or bike riding) can help manage stress, regulate weight and blood sugar, and also help blood pressure. Visit the Campus Recreation homepage to learn how to get moving.

Stop smoking (or don't start)

Smoking (including e-cigs/JUUL) can raise blood pressure and increase your risk of heart attack and stroke. If you smoke but want to cut down or quit, make an appointment with a medical provider at UHS. Or check out the smoking cessation resources offered for free by Health Promotion and Wellness –call 814-863-0461.

Want to dive deeper?

Visit the CDC's webpage on blood pressure for information on hypertension and helpful tips on prevention.


In an emergency, go to Mount Nittany Medical Center or call 911 for an ambulance. Send secure messages to advice nurse via UHS website or call 814-863-4463. Appointments can be made online via the UHS website, by phone 814-863-0774, or in person. If you are unable to keep your appointment, please call or go online to cancel. Otherwise you may be charged. Reviewed 6/8/2020.