How To Read Blood Pressure
Your healthcare provider can take your blood pressure readings.
You can also read your blood pressure at home using a blood pressure monitor.
Follow your providers directions or the guidelines below for the most accurate readings:
- Rest: Blood pressure rises naturally after physical activity, so avoid taking a reading within 30 minutes of any type of exertion.
- Sit correctly:Sit with your back straight, feet flat on the floor, and legs uncrossed. Then support the arm that youre using for the measurement on a flat surface with your upper arm at heart level.
- Place the cuff correctly: Check the instructions of your monitor for precise directions. In general, place the bottom of the blood pressure cuff directly on your skin above the bend of your elbow.
- Take multiple readings: Each time you measure your blood pressure, take 2-3 readings one minute apart from each other. Do this twice daily at the same times each day.
A single high BP reading does not mean youre hypertensive.
If you get a reading thats high for you, rest for a few minutes, then take a few more blood pressure readings. If those are high, contact your healthcare provider.
The Difference Between Systolic And Diastolic Blood Pressures
Blood pressure is one of the vital signs used to check how well your body is working.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, yet it often doesnt cause any symptoms. Instead, the only way you know your blood pressure is elevated is to get a blood pressure reading.
You may have noticed that blood pressure is measured using two numbers, with one over the other.
Both numbers are important, and each can also tell you something about your health on its own.
In this article, Ill explain blood pressure and the differences between systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
Ill also discuss ways to prevent high blood pressure and when to see a doctor about your blood pressure.
Treating High Blood Pressure
Lifestyle changes are recommended as the first step in treating any stage of high blood pressure. These changes may include:
- eliminating unhealthy foods, such as excess sugars and saturated fats, from your diet
- eating more heart-healthy foods such as lean meats, fish, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains
- cutting back on sodium in your diet
- drinking more water
- quitting smoking
- maintaining a healthy weight
- reducing alcohol consumption
- managing stress
- monitoring your blood pressure regularly
In addition to these steps, consider whether youre taking medications that could be increasing your blood pressure, such as cold medicines, diet pills, or medications for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder . If you are, your doctor might recommend stopping that drug, changing medications, or adjusting your dosage.
However, lifestyle changes and medication adjustments may not be enough to bring your blood pressure numbers down. If thats the case, or if you have stage 2 hypertension or have experienced hypertensive crisis, your doctor will likely prescribe one or more blood pressure medications.
Commonly prescribed medications include:
This medication will be prescribed in addition to continued lifestyle changes.
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What Do Blood Pressure Numbers Mean
Blood pressure is measured using two numbers:
The first number, called systolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats.
The second number, called diastolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart rests between beats.
If the measurement reads 120 systolic and 80 diastolic, you would say, 120 over 80, or write, 120/80 mmHg.
What Is Systolic Blood Pressure And What Is Diastolic Blood Pressure
Systolic blood pressure is the pressure in your arteries when your heart contracts and pumps blood through your body. Diastolic blood pressure is the pressure in your arteries when your heart is at rest between beats.
Your blood pressure readings are given as two numbers, for example 120/80 . The top number is your systolic blood pressure and the bottom number is your diastolic blood pressure. Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80 . High blood pressure is 140/90 or higher .
If you have diabetes, high cholesterol, or kidney disease, you may need to get your blood pressure checked more often than people who dont have these conditions. Excellent blood pressure control can help prevent heart attacks, strokes, and kidney disease.
If you have high blood pressure, talk with your doctor about ways to lower it. A healthy lifestyle including a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy weight, and regular exercise can help to lower blood pressure. In some cases, medications may be needed to help lower blood pressure.
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What Is Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is the force that your blood exerts on your vessels. It’s the pressure that your blood puts on your vessels. Blood pressure. There are two numbers when you’re dealing with your blood pressure reading, systolic blood pressure, and diastolic blood pressure.
As previously mentioned, systolic blood pressure is the top number. And it reflects the force that your blood exerts on the vessels while the heart is contracting while the heart is squeezing. So when that left ventricle pumps, when it squeezes, and it forces out the blood from the heart, then that pressure during the peak of that force is the systolic blood pressure. That’s the top number. And it tends to be the higher number.
The diastolic blood pressure is the force that the blood exerts on your vessels in between heartbeats while the heart is relaxed. It’s the bottom number and it tends to be lower than the top number.
Why Is Diastolic More Important
High diastolic reading: Increases the risk of aortic disease. The aorta carries blood and oxygen from the heart to the abdomen and chest. People with an elevated diastolic reading are more prone to developing abdominal aortic aneurysm, an enlargement of the aorta that can lead to rupture and a high risk of death.
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How Blood Pressure Is Measured
A doctor or nurse will measure your blood pressure with a small gauge attached to an inflatable cuff. It’s simple and painless.
The person taking your blood pressure wraps the cuff around your upper arm. Some cuffs go around the forearm or wrist, but often they aren’t as accurate.
Your doctor or nurse will use a stethoscope to listen to the blood moving through your artery.
Theyâll inflate the cuff to a pressure higher than your systolic blood pressure, and it will tighten around your arm. Then theyâll release it. As the cuff deflates, the first sound they hear through the stethoscope is the systolic blood pressure. It sounds like a whooshing noise. The point where this noise goes away marks the diastolic blood pressure.
In a blood pressure reading, the systolic number always comes first, and then the diastolic number. For example, your numbers may be “120 over 80” or written as 120/80.
Diastolic Blood Pressure: Indicator Of Future Cardiac Events In Younger Adults
Now, even though studies have revealed that systolic blood pressure is more predictive of future cardiac events than diastolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure in and of itself, when it’s elevated, regardless of that systolic blood pressure, has been found to also be predictive of cardiac events.
Again, when the diastolic blood pressure is elevated, even when the systolic blood pressure is not, it has been found that diastolic blood pressure can be predictive of cardiac events, especially in younger patients.
There was a 2019 study, an eight-year-long study that had about 1.3 million participants. And it found that, again, even though the systolic blood pressure was more predictive of cardiac outcomes, when there were elevated diastolic blood pressures, regardless of the systolic blood pressure, they also were predictive of cardiac outcomes.
There was also a study published by the American Heart Association Journal Circulation, looking at blood pressure specifically in younger adults. It used a Korean database of patients ages 20 to 39 years of age. And it followed the data for 13 years and looked at cardiac outcomes like heart disease, heart failure, and strokes.
Be sure to watch my video on the truth behind high blood pressure where I share the top most frequently asked questions that I get about blood pressure.
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What Time Of Day Should I Check My Blood Pressure
Many experts suggest recording blood pressures that are taken over an extended time before diagnosing high blood pressure.
You should also know that your blood pressure will be different throughout the day. It tends to be highest in the morning and lower at night.
Your provider may want you to take your use a blood pressure monitor multiple days a dayusually once in the morning and once in the afternoon or evening. Try to avoid taking it early in the morning right when you wake up or right after dinner.
Instead, try to take your morning reading before your breakfast and your evening reading when you’re getting ready for bed .
Once you decide what time you’ll check your blood pressure, it’s important that you’re consistent. You’ll get the most accurate results and comparisons if you take your blood pressure at about the same time every day.
How Does Pulse Pressure Work
Your blood pressure is measured using two numbers, the systolic pressure and the diastolic pressure. The systolic pressure is the top number, and its a measurement of how much pressure your arteries are under each time your heart beats. The diastolic pressure, which is the bottom number, is how much pressure your arteries are under between heartbeats.
These pressures are measured in millimeters of mercury . This is because the first sphygmomanometers used to measure blood pressure had mercury in them. Mercury isnt used anymore in these devices, which are also usually called blood pressure cuffs, but millimeters of mercury is still used.
To calculate your pulse pressure, all you have to do is subtract the bottom number from the top number.
- Example: If your blood pressure was 120/80 mmHg, that would be 120 – 80 = 40.
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Heart Attack And Heart Disease
High blood pressure can damage your arteries by making them less elastic, which decreases the flow of blood and oxygen to your heart and leads to heart disease. In addition, decreased blood flow to the heart can cause:
- Chest pain, also called angina.
- Heart attack, which happens when the blood supply to your heart is blocked and heart muscle begins to die without enough oxygen. The longer the blood flow is blocked, the greater the damage to the heart.
- Heart failure, a condition that means your heart cant pump enough blood and oxygen to your other organs.
What Are The Health Risks Of High Blood Pressure
Recent studies have shown that both high systolic blood pressure and high diastolic blood pressure pose health risks:
- High systolic reading: Increases the risk of heart disease. Systolic blood pressure is linked to heart attacks, heart failure, kidney disease and overall mortality.
- High diastolic reading: Increases the risk of aortic disease. The aorta carries blood and oxygen from the heart to the abdomen and chest. People with an elevated diastolic reading are more prone to developing abdominal aortic aneurysm, an enlargement of the aorta that can lead to rupture and a high risk of death.
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What Does The Systolic Blood Pressure Number Mean
When your heart beats, it squeezes and pushes blood through your arteries to the rest of your body. This force creates pressure on those blood vessels, and that’s your systolic blood pressure.
Hereâs how to understand your systolic blood pressure number:
- Normal: Below 120
- Stage 1 high blood pressure : 130-139
- Stage 2 hypertension: 140 or more
- Hypertensive crisis: 180 or more. Call 911.
How Do Digital Monitors And The Sphygmomanometer Work
Digital monitors can be placed on the wrist, upper arm, or finger and measure blood pressure by evaluating blood volume in the arteries. The sphygmomanometer consists of an inflatable cuff, a pressure meter known as a manometer, and a stethoscope. Healthcare providers use the manometer to inflate the cuff and the stethoscope to listen to the blood flowing in the brachial artery.
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Preventing Low Blood Pressure
To help prevent low blood pressure, drink plenty of fluids, preferably water, to prevent dehydration. Stand up slowly from a sitting position to help prevent orthostatic hypotension.
Also, notify your doctor right away if you feel a medication is causing your blood pressure to drop. There may be another medication option that will have less impact on your blood pressure numbers.
In addition, if youve been diagnosed with any medical conditions known to be linked with low blood pressure, talk to your doctor. Discuss which symptoms you should look out for and how to best monitor your condition.
Why Is Managing My Pulse Pressure Important
Managing your pulse pressure is important because a higher pulse pressure means your heart is working harder, your arteries are less flexible or both. Either of the two increases your risk of heart and circulatory problems, especially heart attack or stroke. The risk is even greater when it’s both at the same time which it commonly is, especially in adults over the age of 55.
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Systolic Vs Diastolic Blood Pressure
Now to answer the question of systolic vs diastolic blood pressure, which one is more important? Many studies have revealed that systolic blood pressure is the greater predictor of future heart events such as heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure. And it is irrespective of age and more predictive of future cardiac events.
However, diastolic blood pressure, especially in young people, has been shown to have a very important role as well. So let’s start with the systolic blood pressure. Studies revealed that systolic blood pressure is a greater predictor of future cardiac events, such as heart attacks, heart failure, and strokes than diastolic blood pressure. And this is irrespective of age.
Diastolic blood pressure, however, does have an important role, especially in younger people because studies also reveal that elevated diastolic blood pressures, regardless of the systolic blood pressure are also predictive of future cardiac events.
With that systolic blood pressure, it is especially predictive of future cardiac events when dealing with older patients, patients greater than the age of 50, and certainly patients older than 65.
Why Should I Monitor My Blood Pressure At Home
Even if your doctor takes your blood pressure in the clinic, monitoring your blood pressure at home can be useful whether or not you have hypertension.
It can tell you if your blood pressure is changing over time, which is important because your risk for hypertension increases as you age.
It can come in handy while youre exercising, and tell you if youre exercising at a healthy and safe intensity level.
If your doctor suspects that you have hypertension, it can give them a better sense of what your blood pressure is like on a normal basis.
If you have hypertension, it can help your doctor see if your treatment plan is working. Current guidelines recommend that patients with hypertension aim for a blood pressure lower than 130/80 mmHg, with the help of lifestyle changes and medications.
If you take blood pressure medications, it can be especially helpful if you experience symptoms like headaches or dizziness. Low blood pressure readings during those times can alert your doctor to adjust the dose of your medication or give you a different drug to try. No matter what, do not change how youre taking your medications without talking to your doctor. Call your doctor immediately if you find that your blood pressure is too high or too low, or if you experience symptoms like headaches, dizziness, or fainting.
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What Do Systolic And Diastolic Mean
Systolic and diastolic are terms related to blood pressure measurement, which gauges the force of blood pushing against the walls of arteries.
- The systolic blood pressure is the pressure produced when the heart contracts and pushes out blood
- The diastolic blood pressure is the pressure when the heart relaxes and fills with blood between heartbeats
Blood pressure readings are expressed as the systolic blood pressure number over the diastolic blood pressure number, such as 120/80 mmHg .
Why Does My Pulse Pressure Change When I Take My Blood Pressure A Few Minutes Apart
Pulse pressure variation is normal and expected. When you breathe, your heart reflexively reacts by increasing how much blood it pumps. These variations in pulse pressure usually are very small, about five to 10 mmHg. If you do take your blood pressure more than once, add each pulse pressure amount together and divide by two to find the average*.
Lets say you have two pulse pressures, taken five minutes apart, with the first being 42 and the second being 38. Youd calculate your pulse pressure using the following steps:
*Note: If you do this, tell your doctor how many times you took your pressure to calculate this average and how long you waited between each measurement.
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