According to the American Heart Association, a normal blood pressure is a systolic pressure (the top number) less than 120 and a diastolic pressure (the bottom number) less than 80—that is 120/80 or lower. A systolic number between 120 and 129 is considered elevated. A systolic number between 130 and 139 with a diastolic number between 80 and 89 indicates Stage 1 hypertension, while a systolic number of 140 or above with a diastolic number of 90 or higher is Stage 2 hypertension.

Experts estimate that between a third and nearly half of American adults have high blood pressure, which is more common among Black people. At early stages, it has no symptoms. Hypertension, one of the features of metabolic syndrome, increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, heart failure, stroke and vision problems. What’s more, high blood pressure is associated with more severe COVID-19 complications. Smoking cessation, weight loss, exercise and a healthy diet can help lower blood pressure. If this is not enough, medications can help keep it under control.