What is High Blood Pressure?

Hypertension: The Silent KillerHigh blood pressure, or hypertension, is a major risk factor for a heart attack and stroke.

Hypertension is often due to hardening of the arteries, or atherosclerosis, which leads to the constriction of blood vessels resulting in an increased workload for the heart.

Although genetics play a role, there is little debate that diet, lifestyle, psychology (stress and anxiety), and environmental factors are the underlying causes in most cases. Dietary factors include: obesity; high sodium to potassium ratio; a low fiber, high sugar diet; low essential omega 3 fatty acid intake; and a diet low in magnesium. Important lifestyle factors include smoking, stress, and lack of exercise.

Blood pressure is a measure of the pressure or force of blood against the wall of your blood vessels (arteries). Your blood pressure reading is based on two measures called systolic and diastolic.

The systolic (top) number is the measure of the pressure force when your heart contracts and pushes out the blood.

The diastolic (bottom) number is the measure of when your heart relaxes between beats.

See below the classifications of Blood Pressure, adapted from Dr. Michael Murray’s book Cholesterol and Heart Health


  • Systolic below 120 mm Hg
  • Diastolic below 80 mm Hg


  • Systolic below 130 mm Hg
  • Diastolic below 85 mm Hg


Borderline (High-Normal)
  • Systolic 130-139 mm Hg
  • Diastolic 85-89 mm Hg


High Blood Pressure


Stage 1 (mild):
  •  Systolic 140-159 mm Hg
  • Diastolic 90-99 mm Hg


Stage 2 (moderate):
  • Systolic 160-179 mm Hg
  • Diastolic 100-109 mm Hg


Stage 3 (severe):
  • Systolic 180 mm Hg or above
  • Diastolic 110 mm Hg or above

My recommendation is to always keep track of your blood pressure at least every few months either at home (using a home blood pressure monitor) or with your GP or ND.