ALBANY, N.Y (NEWS10) — One in three American adults has high blood pressure. Because there are no obvious signs, millions are unaware they have it and are at higher risk for heart attack, stroke, kidney disease, vision loss, and more.

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, means the force of the blood pushing against the blood vessel walls is consistently high. This adds to the heart’s workload and damages your arteries and organs over time. Family history and ethnicity can play a role, but risk factors you can control include smoking, being overweight, having high cholesterol, an unhealthy diet, and physical inactivity. 

Two numbers represent blood pressure—the higher one, systolic, is the pressure in your arteries when your heartbeats. The lower, diastolic, is the pressure when your heart rests. Normal blood pressure is below 120 over 80. High blood pressure is considered 130 over 80 or higher. When your blood pressure becomes elevated, lifestyle changes can help, including cutting down on salt intake.

“You want to limit yourself to less than a teaspoon a day and don’t put any additive salt on foods,” said Dr. Neil Nager, a cardiologist at Albany Medical Center. “Make sure you’re sleeping. Ideally, you want to get eight hours a day, but if you can go for six or seven, you’re in good shape. You want to make sure you don’t have any lung disease, or obstructive sleep apnea, or kidney issues. You want to make sure stress is down and you’re not drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes, you’re exercising.”

Dr. Yager says you shouldn’t wait until you’re diagnosed with high blood pressure to start making heart healthy choices. The best preventive measure is to know your numbers. Be sure you’re getting yearly check-ups so your doctor can take your blood pressure.