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What Do The Numbers On Blood Pressure Mean

Why Should I Monitor My Blood Pressure At Home

Blood Pressure Numbers: What Do They Mean?

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.

Normal Blood Pressure For Children

Normal BP ranges vary in children by age. The University of Iowa Stead Family Childrens Hospital provides this chart:

Normal Blood Pressure for Children
Systolic
112128 mm Hg 6680 mm Hg

What is considered healthy for your child also varies by height, age, and sex. You can use Baylor College of Medicine’s calculator to see if your childs blood pressure reading is in a healthy range.

The ‘bottom’ Blood Pressure Number Matters Too

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, July 18, 2019 — When it comes to blood pressure readings, the “top” number seems to grab all the attention.

But a large, new study confirms that both numbers are, in fact, critical in determining the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Blood pressure measurements are given as a “top” and “bottom” number. The first reflects systolic blood pressure, the amount of pressure in the arteries as the heart contracts. The second reflects diastolic blood pressure, the pressure in the arteries between heart muscle contractions.

For years, systolic blood pressure has been seen as the one that really matters. That’s based on studies — including the famous Framingham Heart Study — showing that high systolic blood pressure is a stronger predictor of heart disease and stroke.

At the same time, though, doctors measure both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, and treatment guidelines are based on both. So just how important is that diastolic number?

“The idea behind this new study was to address the confusion,” said lead researcher Dr. Alexander Flint, an investigator with Kaiser Permanente Northern California’s division of research.

Using medical records from 1.3 million patients, his team confirmed that, yes, high systolic blood pressure was a stronger risk factor for heart attack and stroke. But those risks also climbed in tandem with diastolic pressure and people with normal systolic readings were still at risk if their diastolic pressure was high.

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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.

What Do The Blood Pressure Numbers Mean

Get to Know Your Blood Pressure

When you get a blood pressure reading, youll see two numbers. The first number is your systolic blood pressure. Systolic blood pressure refers to the pressure in your artery walls when your heart contracts . The second number is your diastolic blood pressure. This number refers to the pressure in your artery walls when your heart rests between beats.

In general, the first number, your systolic blood pressure, gives your doctor the most information about your risks for heart disease. Over time, systolic blood pressure can go up as people get more plaque buildup and their arteries stiffen. So higher systolic blood pressure can indicate increased damage and increased heart disease risk.

But your diastolic blood pressure is also important. If you are between ages 40 to 89, both your stroke and heart disease risk double with every 10 mm Hg increase in diastolic blood pressure.

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How To Read Blood Pressure Numbers

Now lets explore the measurement. Blood pressure is always shown as two numbers. Use 120 over 80, which is written as 120/80 mm Hg , as an example. The 120 is the top number and is known as systolic blood pressure. It represents the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats. The 80 is the bottom number and is known as diastolic blood pressure. This is the pressure measured between your heartbeats when your heart is relaxing.

While both numbers are important, the American Heart Association notes the top number usually gets more attention. Thats because it helps show your risk of having a stroke or heart attack, along with kidney disease, congestive heart failure, vision loss and memory loss.

A high systolic reading is considered a major heart disease risk factor for people older than 50. As we age, arteries can become stiff and develop plaque buildup. In other words, if your blood is essentially punching the walls inside your heart, over and over again, damage will eventually occur.

Heres how the American Heart Association categorizes blood pressure levels.

  • Normal: systolic less than 120 and diastolic less than 80
  • Prehypertension: systolic 120-139 or diastolic 80-89
  • Stage 1 high blood pressure: systolic 140-159 or diastolic 90-99
  • Stage 2 high blood pressure: systolic 160 or higher or diastolic 100 or higher
  • Hypertensive crisis : systolic higher than 180 or diastolic higher than 110

Low blood pressure is typically not a problem unless you notice symptoms like:

Normal Blood Pressure Range

A normal blood pressure reading indicates that the heart and blood vessels are not working too hard pushing blood and that the blood is not exerting too much pressure on the walls of the vessels, says Aseem Desai, M.D., a cardiologist at Providence Mission Hospital in Southern California. Recent data from the American Heart Association suggests the optimal normal reading for adults over 20 is lower than 120/80 mmHgVirani S, et al. Heart disease and stroke statistics 2021 update . American Heart Association Journal. 2021 143:e254-e743. .

Dr. Desai notes blood pressure can vary depending on a persons age, gender, race and ethnicity, but it should still fall within the general normal range. While numbers lower than 120/80 are generally considered normal, Dr. Desai adds, The target blood pressure for treatment varies depending on age and associated co-morbidities .

Previously, guidance for normal blood pressure for adults varied by gender and specific age, but new data states normal blood pressure for adults as a collective is less than 120/80 mmHgHigh Blood Pressure Symptoms and Causes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed 7/16/2021. .

When it comes to race and ethnicity, Dr. Desai says certain groups have a higher rate of hypertension. Non-Hispanic Black people have a significantly higher rate of hypertension compared to non-Hispanic white people, and Hispanics and non-Hispanic Asians have lower rates than the first two, he says.

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Symptoms Of Low Blood Pressure

Most doctors will only consider chronically low blood pressure as dangerous if it causes noticeable signs and symptoms, such as:

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Fainting
  • Dehydration and unusual thirst
  • Dehydration can sometimes cause blood pressure to drop. However, dehydration does not always cause low blood pressure. Fever, vomiting, severe diarrhea, overuse of diuretics and strenuous exercise can all lead to dehydration, a potentially serious condition in which your body loses more water than you take in. Even mild dehydration can cause weakness, dizziness and fatigue.
  • Lack of concentration
  • Depression

Blood Pressure: What Your Numbers Mean For Your Health

Good Question: What Do Your Blood Pressure Numbers Mean?

In 2017, leading heart experts redefined high blood pressure for the first time in 14 years. These new blood pressure guidelines from the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association give a lower definition of high blood pressure. According to the ACC, this new definition may result in nearly half of U.S. adults being diagnosed with the condition.

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The Basics Of Blood Pressure

A blood pressure reading is made up of two numbers expressed as a fraction. The top number, or systolic pressure, measures how much pressure is in the arteries when the heart contracts. The bottom number, or diastolic pressure, measures the blood pressure between beats.

When your heart pumps, all that blood rushes and fills your arteries, Baker said. Its just like plumbing: if youre pumping more water into the system, the pressure inside the plumbing goes up. Thats your systolic reading. When the heart relaxes and fills, the reading falls and you get the lower number, or your diastolic reading.

What Is Mean Arterial Pressure

Automatic blood pressure monitors give you a systolic and diastolic blood pressure reading. Many of them also include a small number in parentheses underneath or beside your standard blood pressure reading. This number in parentheses is the mean arterial pressure .

MAP is a calculation that doctors use to check whether theres enough blood flow, resistance, and pressure to supply blood to all your major organs.

Resistance refers to the way the width of a blood vessel impacts blood flow. For example, its harder for blood to flow through a narrow artery. As resistance in your arteries increases, blood pressure also increases while the flow of blood decreases.

You can also think of MAP as the average pressure in your arteries throughout one cardiac cycle, which includes the series of events that happen every time your heart beats.

Keep reading to learn more about the normal, high, and low ranges of MAP and what they mean.

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Side Effects Of Low Blood Pressure

Low blood pressure may not be discussed as often as high blood pressure, but it should be addressed, as prolonged low blood pressure can negatively affect your organs.

A certain amount of blood pressure is needed to maintain blood flow to the organs, says Dr. Wong. The blood supplies oxygen and nutrients to these organs. If the blood pressure is too low, an adequate blood supply cannot get to these organs.

If left untreated, low blood pressure can increase your risk of fainting, heart attack and organ damage, adds Dr. Desai.

When Is Your Blood Pressure Dangerously High

What does your blood pressure mean for your health ...

A blood pressure reading of over 180/120 is dangerously high. Doctors call this a hypertensive crisis, and it requires immediate treatment. Call your closest medical centre to understand what steps you need to follow to get the treatment you need.

All this can be summarised in a blood pressure chart, like this:

To check your blood pressure against the chart, start from your systolic pressure on the left-hand side, and move your finger to the right until you reach your diastolic pressure. The colour will tell you whether you have normal or abnormal blood pressure.

References:

Williams B, Giuseppe M, Spiering W, et al. . 2018 ESC/ESH Guidelines for the management of arterial hypertension. Journal of Hypertension, 36. doi: 10.1097/HJH.0000000000001940

Bupa . High blood pressure. Retrieved from www.bupa.co.uk/health-information/heart-blood-circulation/high-blood-pressure-hypertension

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What Do The Numbers On A Blood Pressure Reading Mean

One of the most common things we think of when we hear of heart problems is high blood pressure. Of course, we know that the rate in which our blood is coursing through our bodies is important to our heart health. We need oxygen supplied at a steady rate to all parts of our body to ensure we stay healthy. Although we know the basics of high and low blood pressure, do we actually know what the numbers are stating and how it is measured? Here is what the numbers on a blood pressure reading actually mean!

Tips For Managing High Blood Pressure

Theres no cure for high blood pressure, but you can successfully manage it with medication and living a healthy lifestyle, Dr. Dadabhoy says.

The following changes can help you better manage high blood pressure:

  • Monitoring your blood pressure regularly
  • Taking your medications as prescribed
  • Eating a well-balanced, low-salt diet
  • Exercising regularly
  • Maintaining a healthy weight that you and your doctor have agreed on
  • Quitting smoking
  • Increasing potassium intake, if recommended by your doctor
  • Managing stress

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What Do The Numbers On Your Blood Pressure Mean

Raleigh Medical Group, P.A.Blood Pressure, General Posts, Heart Disease, Heart Monitor, Men’s Health, Women’s Healthheart disease, high blood pressure, men’s health, women’s health

While one in three Americans has high blood pressure, only 54% are effectively treating their condition. Complications from high blood pressure contribute to 1,000 deaths a day, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The disease is often called the silent killer because it doesnt show any obvious symptoms. However, failure to receive treatment will place you at higher risk for strokes, heart damage and kidney damage.

Which Blood Pressure Number Is Important

What do the numbers of my blood pressure reading mean, and how can I control heart disease?

Q.When I am monitoring my blood pressure, which number is most important top, bottom, or both?

A. While both numbers in a blood pressure reading are essential for diagnosing and treating high blood pressure, doctors primarily focus on the top number, also known as systolic pressure.

Systolic pressure reflects the force produced by the heart when it pumps blood out to the body, while diastolic blood pressure is the pressure in your blood vessels when the heart is at rest.

Over the years, research has found that both numbers are equally important in monitoring heart health. However, most studies show a greater risk of stroke and heart disease related to higher systolic pressures compared with elevated diastolic pressures. That’s especially true in people ages 50 and older, which is why doctors tend to monitor the top number more closely. The reason for the difference in risk may be related to the force put on the arteries when blood rushes out of the heart.

The American Heart Association now defines high blood pressure as 130/80 mm Hg or higher. The new guidelines recommend you check your blood pressure often, ideally with a home monitor, to help your doctor determine if you need to make lifestyle changes, begin medication, or alter your current therapy.

by Howard LeWine, M.D.

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What Can I Do To Prevent Or Manage High Blood Pressure

Many people with high blood pressure can lower their blood pressure into a healthy range or keep their numbers in a healthy range by making lifestyle changes. Talk with your health care team about

  • Getting at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week
  • Not smoking
  • Managing stress

Learn more about ways to manage and prevent high blood pressure.

In addition to making positive lifestyle changes, some people with high blood pressure need to take medicine to manage their blood pressure. Learn more about medicines for high blood pressure.

Talk with your health care team right away if you think you have high blood pressure or if youve been told you have high blood pressure but do not have it under control.

What Do You Do If Your Blood Pressure Is Unhealthy

If your blood pressure is unhealthy, there are a number of things you can do to help. First and foremost, always speak to your doctor before making any changes to your lifestyle, diet, or medication. Your doctor will have a better idea of your health and history and can suggest the best methods to make a positive adjustment for you. Below are a few options that are suggested when blood pressure is high:

  • Medications
  • Staying fit
  • Daily exercise
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Reducing sodium consumption
  • Supplements
  • Lowering intake of caffeinated beverages

Unhealthy blood pressure can be manageable and even reduced so that you live a long and healthy life and reduce your risk of heart disease!

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Blood Pressure Thats Too Low

Low blood pressure is known as hypotension. In adults, a blood pressure reading of 90/60 mm Hg or below is often considered hypotension. This can be dangerous because blood pressure that is too low doesnt supply your body and heart with enough oxygenated blood.

Some potential causes of hypotension can include:

  • heart problems

If You Notice A Sudden Decline In Blood Pressure

Lower your blood pressure, boost your health

A single lower-than-normal reading is not cause for alarm, unless you are experiencing any other symptoms or problems. If you experience any dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea or other symptoms, its a good idea to consult with your healthcare provider. To help with your diagnosis, keep a record of your symptoms and activities at the time they occurred.

Is low blood pressure related to low heart rate? Find out.

Written by American Heart Association editorial staff and reviewed by science and medicine advisers. See our editorial policies and staff.

Last Reviewed: Oct 31, 2016

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