A range of factors can increase someone’s risk of experiencing a stroke. High blood pressure (HBP) is a significant risk factor for stroke.

In the United States, stroke is a leading cause of death. It occurs when a blockage prevents blood from reaching the brain or when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures. This can cause brain damage, disability, and death.

Studies show that more than 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke annually. In other words, an individual in the U.S. has a stroke approximately every 40 seconds.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HBP is one of the leading causes of stroke.

This article discusses how HBP contributes to stroke, how to prevent stroke, how to manage HBP, and when to seek medical attention.

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A doctor may diagnose a person with stage 1 HBP if their systolic or upper number consistently measures between 130 and 139 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Individuals may also have the condition if their diastolic or lower number consistently measures between 80 and 89 mm Hg. Higher values may indicate a person has stage 2 HBP.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the ideal blood pressure level is less than 120 mm Hg systolic and 80 mm Hg diastolic.

The damage HBP causes can weaken and narrow the blood vessels, allowing them to become blocked or rupture more easily. An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood clot or fatty deposits block a blood vessel leading to the brain. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures or leaks blood, placing pressure on the brain cells.

Therefore, a person with weakened or narrow blood vessels due to untreated HBP has a much higher risk of experiencing a stroke.

A person cannot adjust certain risk factors for stroke, such as age, race, and family history. However, there are lifestyle changes someone can make to lower the risk of stroke. Some of these include the following:

There are medications available that a doctor may prescribe to treat HBP. Various lifestyle choices can also help someone manage HBP. Some of these include:

Read more about how to reduce blood pressure.

The sections below discuss when a person needs to seek emergency medical attention for stroke and HBP.


A stroke is a medical emergency, so individuals need to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Quickly acting can save a life or reduce the amount of brain damage that the stroke causes.

There are signs and symptoms of a stroke that someone can look out for. They should call 911 immediately if they or another person have any of the following sudden symptoms:

If a person suspects they or another individual are having a stroke, they can look for the “FAST” signs of stroke:

  • Face: Can the person smile? Does their mouth, eyes, or one side of the face droop?
  • Arms: Can the person raise both arms? Does one arm drift downward?
  • Speech: Can the individual repeat a simple phrase? Is their speech slurred or unusual?
  • Time: A person should call 911 right away if they see or experience any one of these signs.

Individuals can help healthcare professionals by making a note of the time that symptoms started.

High blood pressure

A person may be experiencing a hypertensive crisis if they have a sudden rise in blood pressure with readings of 180/120 mm Hg or more. People need to ensure to take any blood pressure medications and make any lifestyle modifications as a doctor advises. This is because HBP can cause a hypertensive crisis without treatment.

In some cases, a hypertensive crisis may lead to a stroke or adverse cardiac events, such as a heart attack, within a year.

A hypertensive crisis may occur with or without any of the following symptoms:

A person needs to call 911 right away if they experience any signs or symptoms of a hypertensive crisis. This condition can lead to various health problems, including stroke and heart attack.

Learn more about a hypertensive emergency.

HBP is one of the leading causes of stroke, a leading cause of death in the U.S.

People may reduce the likelihood of having a stroke and manage HBP by making certain lifestyle choices. A person can monitor their blood pressure by taking regular blood pressure readings. A healthcare professional can also help someone take their first blood pressure reading and teach them what to look for.

If someone experiences the signs and symptoms of a stroke or a hypertensive crisis or recognizes them in someone else, they should call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately.