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Prehypertension is a condition between normal blood pressure and high blood pressure (hypertension). Because there are often no symptoms, people typically don't realize they have it until their blood pressure readings are too high. People diagnosed with this condition may be able to prevent hypertension by following a diet low in salt and high in fiber, fruits, and vegetables.

What Is Prehypertension?

Blood pressure is a measure of the pressure inside your blood vessels -- both while the heart is beating and while it is relaxed. High blood pressure -- also known as hypertension -- occurs when the pressure within blood vessels is too high. High blood pressure affects 1 in 3 Americans and its impact is well known; it plays a role in the development of serious health problems, such as heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure, just to name a few.
A review of the latest research led a panel of experts to come up with another category related to blood pressure readings. This new category is known as prehypertension, a condition that is between normal blood pressure and high blood pressure. People with prehypertension are at higher risk for serious health problems than people in the "normal" blood pressure range.

Understanding the Risks

The first step in prehypertension and high blood pressure prevention is to know your blood pressure reading in numbers, just in general descriptive terms. Knowing your blood pressure numbers will help you assess what you need to do to lower your risk of developing future health problems. An elevated or rising blood pressure number is cause for action.
Blood pressure readings are given in two numbers -- "systolic" over "diastolic." Systolic pressure, the top number in a blood pressure reading, is the force of blood in the arteries as the heart beats. Diastolic pressure, the bottom number, is the force of blood in the arteries as the heart relaxes between beats. Both numbers are important to help your doctor determine your risk of health problems.
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Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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