Any level of high blood pressure can weaken and damage the walls of your blood vessels, making it easier for a clot to form or an artery to rupture in your brain.

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a major risk factor for stroke. Over time, high blood pressure can damage and weaken the blood vessels, making it easier for blood clots to form or for arteries to rupture.

Keeping your blood pressure within a healthy range is one of the best ways to lower your risk of stroke. This article takes a closer look at what blood pressure range may increase your stroke risk and what you can do to prevent this.

Blood pressure is the force your blood exerts against the inner walls of your arteries as it circulates through your body.

High blood pressure is when this force inside your arteries is consistently too high. The elevated pressure can increase your stroke risk in a couple of ways.

First, over time, high blood pressure can damage blood vessels, making them less flexible and more vulnerable to blood clot formation. When a blood clot lodges in an artery that supplies the brain with blood, it can cause an ischemic stroke. This is the most common type of stroke.

Second, over time, high blood pressure can weaken blood vessels and make them more prone to rupture. When this happens in the brain, it’s known as a hemorrhagic stroke.

Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Blood pressure is also separated into two numbers: systolic (the top number on your blood pressure reading) and diastolic (the bottom number).

Systolic pressure is the force that’s exerted within the arteries when your heart contracts. Diastolic pressure is the force of your blood when your heart rests between beats.

According to the American Heart Association, most people who have a first-time stroke also have high blood pressure.

Healthy blood pressure range

A healthy blood pressure is a systolic pressure of less than 120 mm Hg and a diastolic pressure of less than 80 mm Hg.

The following ranges represent categories of high blood pressure:

Blood pressure categorySystolic blood pressure (top number) in mm HgDiastolic blood pressure (bottom number) in mm Hg

120–129andbelow 80
Stage 1 hypertension130–139or80–89
Stage 2 hypertension140 or higheror90 or higher
Hypertensive crisishigher than 180and/orhigher than 120

Although any level of high blood pressure raises the risk of stroke, doctors recommend keeping your blood pressure below 130/80 mm Hg to prevent a first-time stroke.

High blood pressure symptoms

High blood pressure seldom presents with any symptoms. This is why it’s known as “the silent killer.” Symptoms are usually only present when your blood pressure reaches the level of a hypertensive crisis. This is a medical emergency.

Symptoms of a hypertensive crisis may include:

In addition to raising your risk of stroke, a hypertensive crisis can lead to other serious complications, such as:

Maintaining healthy blood pressure is an ongoing process. If you’ve received a diagnosis of high blood pressure, talk with your doctor about the lifestyle strategies or medications that may be most helpful to keep your blood pressure well managed.

Some lifestyle strategies that may be most effective include:

If lifestyle strategies aren’t enough to lower your blood pressure, your doctor may prescribe medication as part of your treatment plan. It may take some time and patience to determine which medication works best for you.

Some of the more common types of blood pressure medications include:

If you have high blood pressure, consider getting a blood pressure monitor that you can use at home. This can help you track changes in your blood pressure and to monitor how well your treatment is working.

Having high blood pressure weakens and damages your blood vessels over time and raises your risk of stroke.

While any level of high blood pressure raises your stroke risk, it’s recommended that you keep your blood pressure consistently below 130/80 mm Hg to prevent a first-time stroke.

You can lower high blood pressure through lifestyle strategies, such as eating a heart-healthy diet, exercising regularly, not smoking, managing your weight, and managing stress in healthy ways. If lifestyle strategies aren’t enough, your doctor can prescribe medications to help lower your blood pressure.