Have you or a loved one just been diagnosed with high blood pressure?

If you have high blood pressure, also called hypertension, it means that you have elevated levels of pressure of blood in your arteries. Prolonged periods of high blood pressure can cause serious damage to the heart and blood vessels.

After a diagnosis, you probably have a lot of questions about your risks, and your next steps toward recovery. We have answers.

What Do the Numbers Mean? Your doctor should take your blood pressure every time you have an exam, but you may be confused by the results. What's the difference between systolic pressure and diastolic pressure? Our expert explains all in High Blood Pressure: By the Numbers.

Why Do I Have High Blood Pressure? Age is one of the major factors, as blood pressure increases as both men and women get older. Gender, ethnicity, genetics, weight, and the existence of other medical conditions can all play a role in increasing your risk. Read about the causes and risk factors for hypertension.

What Are My Risks? High blood pressure is called "the silent killer" because it typically shows no symptoms. However, it can place stress on important parts of your body, causing them to deteriorate over time. This stress can result in conditions such as stroke, heart disease, sexual dysfunction, kidney disease, and even neurological problems. Find out more about complications related to high blood pressure.

What Do I Do Now? One of the first steps you should take after your diagnosis is working with your doctor to establish blood pressure goals and creating a treatment program to help you achieve them. Your plan will be unique to you, but may include taking steps to living a healthier lifestyle by eating right and exercising, as well as taking medication to lower your blood pressure. You can find out what treatment options may be best for you by reading our guide to prevention and treatment.

Hypertension can be a very serious condition, but with the help of your doctor, you can keep it from causing other health issues so that you can live a healthy and happy life.