Do you have high blood pressure? How do you know if you do?
Obviously, it is important to regularly monitor your blood pressure, but unless you know what the numbers mean, there isn’t much you can do with those numbers.
Understanding the results is the key to being able to keep your blood pressure under control.
According to the American Heart Association, there are healthy and unhealthy blood pressure ranges.
Today we are going to take a look at those ranges, and let you know what you should be looking for with your own blood pressure readings. Let’s get started.
Blood Pressure Ranges
The American Heart Association says that there are five blood pressure ranges: normal; elevated; hypertension stage 1; hypertension stage 2; and hypertensive crisis. Let’s take a closer look at what each of these ranges means.
Typically, blood pressure readings should be around 120/80 mmHg. If your results are in this range, you are obviously doing something right, such as eating properly and getting plenty of regular exercise.
If your systolic number (top number) is between 120 and 129, and the diastolic is below 80, you have elevated blood pressure. This means that you are at a high risk of developing high blood pressure unless you find ways to manage the condition.
Hypertension stage 1
If your systolic number is 130 to 139, and the diastolic is 80 to 89, you have high blood pressure and your doctor will likely advise that you make a few lifestyle changes, particularly when it comes to diet and exercise. You are at a high risk of heart disease, heart attack, or stroke.
Hypertension stage 2
When your numbers are consistent at a range of 140/90 or higher, you have very high blood pressure, and it is likely that your doctor will not only recommend lifestyle changes, but also prescribe blood pressure medications.
If your readings are at 180/120 or higher, you need medical attention. It is important to do a second reading to make sure that the first wasn’t a mistake. If the second reading (taken about five minutes after the first) is the same, contact your doctor.
If your reading is this high and you are experiencing chest pain, back pain, shortness of breath, numbness, weakness, change in vision, or difficulty in speaking, call 911 immediately. Do not wait to see if your blood pressure will go down on its own.
What Blood Pressure Numbers Mean
Now we are going to take a look at what the blood pressure numbers mean. There are two numbers used in blood pressure readings: systolic, which is the top number, and diastolic, which is the bottom number.
Systolic blood pressure
This tells you how much pressure the blood is putting on the arteries while they heart is beating.
Diastolic blood pressure
This number tells you how much pressure the blood is putting on the arteries while the heart is at rest, or between beats.
In most cases, the systolic blood pressure is the number that indicates there is a risk of cardiovascular disease. Most of the time this blood pressure number that causes the most concern, and the higher this number is, the higher your risk is of developing cardiovascular disease, especially if you are over 50. Yes, this number does tend to get higher as we age, but even so, it is something that needs to be closely monitored to avoid heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes.
Don’t think that the diastolic number has little meaning though. Recent studies show that if the diastolic rate increases by 10 mmHg or more in people ages 40 to 89, there is an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
Taking Your Pulse
A lot of people mistakenly believe that taking their pulse is the same as getting a blood pressure reading. While both will give you a reading of your heart rate, the only way to truly know your blood pressure is to do an actual blood pressure reading with the proper equipment, such as a cuff or a digital monitor.
Blood pressure is measured in mmHg, which means millimeters of mercury. This element was used in the first blood pressure gauges that had any amount of accuracy, and it is still used today.
No matter how old you are, it is a good idea to get into the habit of having your blood pressure monitored regularly. If you don’t want to make a lot of trips to your doctor, there are many stores that offer blood pressure machines for the public to use, or, you can invest in your own blood pressure monitor that you can use at home easily.