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What Does Blood Pressure Readings Mean

What You Can Do

What is blood pressure?

Treatment varies depending on your numbers, family history and other factors, such as whether youve had a heart attack or stroke, or whether you suffer from diabetes or kidney disease.

But everyone with elevated readings can benefit from lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, reducing alcohol and quitting smoking.

Like all lifestyle treatments, it takes a real commitment, Baker said.

This hard work does pay off, as results are usually seen in two or three months.

Ive seen people focus on their lifestyle and within three months, they see a five to 10 point drop, Baker said. You can see pretty quick results.

This article first appeared in the Steamboat Pilot & Today on Feb. 5, 2018.

Side Effects Of High Blood Pressure

Dangers of untreated high blood pressure include stroke, heart attack, heart failure, vision loss, kidney failure, vascular dementia and sexual dysfunction, says Dr. Desai. Its one of the top risk factors for developing atrial fibrillation, which is the most common heart rhythm disorder worldwide and can lead to stroke, heart failure and reduced quality of life.

Mean Arterial Pressure Significance

As mentioned earlier, a normal range for mean arterial pressure is 70 to 110 mm Hg. A mean arterial pressure in the high range could be an indication that the heart has to work much harder than it should. This is causing stress on the heart. High MAP can result in advanced heart disease, blood clots, heart attack, and stroke. When high mean arterial pressure is ongoing, heart muscles will enlarge and grow thicker, and jeopardize life expectancy. When MAP goes up quickly in a short period of time, organs can fail. A mean arterial pressure in the high range isnt the only concern though, low is also problematic.

Low MAP can also be fatal if left untreated. Pressure readings less than 60 mm Hg must be addressed. In this case, when organs are not getting the blood they need, you can go into shock and organs can fail. Low MAP can be caused by sepsis, hemorrhaging, stroke, or some sort of trauma.

Here are some situations where perfusion of organs might come into play and impact MAP:

  • Head injuries
  • Abdominal aneurysm

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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.

High Diastolic Blood Pressure Consequences

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

You may have noticed the diastolic pressure has been high more often than normal. A frequent question to ask is, should I worry if my diastolic is high?

Having a consistent high diastolic number is a concern. High diastolic pressure increases the risk of developing high systolic blood pressure as a person ages. Higher diastolic pressure increases the risk of death from ischemic heart disease and stroke.

High diastolic pressure alone may be used to determine a diagnosis of high blood pressure.

Previous studies of more than one million people have shown increased risks with higher diastolic numbers. The results involved individuals aged 40 to 89 years. For every 10 mmHg increase in diastolic pressure, the risk of mortality from ischemic heart disease and stroke doubled 10.

In addition, the Framingham Heart Study examined 6,859 people who were initially free of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. They compared people with blood pressure between 130-139/85-89 mmHg to people with less than 120/80 mmHg.

The individuals with higher systolic and diastolic pressure doubled their risk of cardiovascular disease 11.

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What Questions Should I Ask My Provider

  • Are there supplements or non-prescription medicines that I shouldnt take?
  • Can I keep taking these medicines if I get pregnant?
  • What kinds of exercise should I do?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

If you dont treat high blood pressure, it can put you at risk for developing serious illnesses later in life such as heart attack, kidney failure and stroke. But if you follow your providers instructions, you can control your blood pressure. Be sure to take any medicines your provider ordered as instructed. Keep taking them even if your blood pressure numbers begin to fall into the normal range. Living a healthy lifestyle by eating healthy foods, watching your weight and getting regular exercise is also a great way to help control your blood pressure.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 09/21/2021.

References

What’s The Difference Between Blood Pressure And Pulse

While your blood pressure is the force of your blood moving through your blood vessels, your heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute.

  • They are two separate measurements and indicators of health.
  • For people with high blood pressure , theres no substitute for measuring blood pressure.

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Check Your Blood Pressure At Home

The new guidelines note that blood pressure should be measured on a regular basis and encourage people to use home blood pressure monitors. Monitors can range from $40 to $100 on average, but your insurance may cover part or all of the cost. Measure your blood pressure a few times a week and see your doctor if you notice any significant changes. Here are some tips on how to choose and use a monitor.

Choosing

  • Select a monitor that goes around your upper arm. Wrist and finger monitors are not as precise.
  • Select an automated monitor, which has a cuff that inflates itself.
  • Look for a digital readout that is large and bright enough to see clearly.
  • Consider a monitor that also plugs into your smartphone to transfer the readings to an app, which then creates a graph of your progress. Some devices can send readings wirelessly to your phone.

Using

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What Causes High Diastolic Blood Pressure

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

Having a diastolic number consistently high is going to bring up some common questions. Youre probably wondering, why is my bottom blood pressure number high?

The bottom blood pressure number can be high for the following reasons:

  • Age
  • Cortisol is released.
  • Certain pain medications can raise blood pressure and reduce the effect of blood pressure medication.

In studies, pain has been shown to increase diastolic blood pressure by 10 mmHg. After the pain was relieved, diastolic blood pressure returned to normal 6.

Obesity and excess weight have been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and high blood pressure.

An unhealthy diet leads to excess weight and obesity. In addition, it contains high sodium, added sugar, saturated and trans fats 7.

In addition to increasing diastolic blood pressure, regular use of excess alcohol and illegal drugs can cause heart failure, stroke and an irregular heartbeat 8.

Smoking can temporary increase blood pressure. In the long-term, it can contribute to damaged blood vessels which affect blood pressure 9.

Sleep apnea may increase the risk of developing high blood pressure and is common in people with resistant hypertension.

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When To See The Doctor

The doctor should check your monitor at least once a year. This ensures that the measurements are accurate.

Only a doctor can diagnose you with high blood pressure. Contact your doctor if you have high readings for several days. Be sure to take your blood pressure log with you to the visit.

Hypotension is low blood pressure. This occurs when your systolic pressure is consistently below 90 or is 25 points below your normal reading. Contact your doctor if you have low readings. Hypotension can be a sign of shock, which is life threatening. Call your doctor right away if you are dizzy or lightheaded.

How Do You Know If Youre Hypertensive

Hypertension is a symptomless condition this means the only way to know if you have it, is to regularly take a blood pressure measurement. If you see your blood pressure reading between 120-129 and 80-84 this is perfect and within the normal range.

The definition of high blood pressure, according to the European Society of Hypertension, is anything above 140/90 mmHg. But for home monitoring where we are likely to be more relaxed, the limit is slightly lower at 135/85.If your blood pressure is between 120/80 and 140/90, you might be at risk or you might already be hypertensive. It is important to bring it under control and share the results with your GP so that they can help you with a proper treatment plan.

Remember that you can get readings at home, but only a doctor can make a proper diagnosis of hypertension.

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Choosing A Home Blood Pressure Monitor

The American Heart Association recommends an automatic, cuff-style, bicep monitor.

  • Wrist and finger monitors are not recommended because they yield less reliable readings.
  • Choose a monitor that has been validated. If you are unsure, ask your doctor or pharmacist for advice or find options at validatebp.org.
  • When selecting a blood pressure monitor for a senior, pregnant woman or child, make sure it is validated for these conditions.
  • Make sure the cuff fits measure around your upper arm and choose a monitor that comes with the correct size cuff.

If You Notice A Sudden Decline In Blood Pressure

What Does my Blood Pressure Reading Mean?

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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Is There Anything Else I Need To Know About A Blood Pressure Measurement

If you were diagnosed with high blood pressure, your provider may recommend one or more of the following lifestyle changes.

  • Exercise regularly. Staying active can help lower your blood pressure and also help manage your weight. Most adults should aim for 150 minutes of physical activity per week. Check with your provider before beginning an exercise program.
  • Keep a healthy weight. If you are overweight, losing as little as 5 pounds can lower your blood pressure.
  • Eat a healthy diet that includes fruits, vegetable, and whole grains. Limit foods high in saturated fat and total fat.
  • Reduce salt in your diet. Most adults should have less than 1500 mg of salt per day.
  • Limit alcohol use. If you choose to drink, limit yourself to one drink a day if you are a woman two drinks a day if you’re a man.
  • Don’t smoke.

What Do The Numbers Mean

When a healthcare professional takes your blood pressure, its expressed as a measurement with two numbers, one number on top and one on the bottom , like a fraction. For example, 120/80 mm Hg.

Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury. Thats what the mm/Hg stands for. Heres what the numbers mean:

  • Your systolic pressure is the pressure of the blood in your arteries when your heart contracts or beats.
  • Your diastolic pressure is the pressure of the blood in your arteries between beats, when your heart relaxes.

Both numbers are important in determining the state of your heart health.

Numbers greater than the ideal range may be a sign that your heart is working too hard to pump blood to the rest of your body.

For a normal reading, your blood pressure needs to show:

  • a systolic pressure thats above 90 mm Hg and less than 120 mm Hg, and
  • a diastolic pressure thats between 60 mm Hg and less than 80 mm Hg

The American Heart Association considers blood pressure to be within the normal range when both your systolic and diastolic numbers are in these ranges.

If youre in the normal range, no medical intervention is needed. However, its important to maintain a healthy lifestyle and moderate weight to help prevent high blood pressure from developing.

You may need to be even more mindful of your lifestyle if high blood pressure runs in your family.

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Whats Considered Elevated Blood Pressure

Blood pressure numbers that are higher than 120/80 mm Hg are a warning sign. It means you need to pay attention to your blood pressure and focus on heart-healthy habits.

Although these numbers arent technically considered high blood pressure, youve moved out of the normal range. Elevated blood pressure may turn into high blood pressure, which puts you at an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

Elevated blood pressure

When your systolic pressure is between 120 and 129mm Hgand your diastolic pressure is less than 80mm Hg, it means you have elevated blood pressure.

No medications are necessary for elevated blood pressure. But your doctor may talk with you about the importance of a healthy lifestyle, such as getting regular exercise, eating a balanced diet, and managing your weight.

You may receive a diagnosis of stage 1 hypertension if:

  • your systolic blood pressure is between 130 and 139 mm Hg, or
  • your diastolic blood pressure is between 80 and 89 mm Hg

However, the AHA notes that if you get only one reading this high, you may not truly have stage 1 hypertension. What determines the diagnosis of hypertension at any stage is the average of your blood pressure numbers over a period of time.

Your doctor can help you measure and track your blood pressure to confirm whether its too high.

Stage 1 hypertension

If your systolic blood pressure is 130 to 139 mm Hgor your diastolic blood pressure is 80 to 89 mm Hg, its considered stage 1 hypertension.

How Do I Know If My Monitor Is Accurate Or If I Am Using It Correctly

Good Question: What Do Your Blood Pressure Numbers Mean?

Once you buy your device, have your doctor check it for accuracy. They should check your monitor once a year. On your own, periodically check the tubing for cracks and leaks. Proper care and storage are necessary. Make sure the tubing is not twisted when you store it. Keep it away from heat.

Ask your doctor or nurse to teach you how to use your blood pressure monitor correctly. This will help you achieve good results in controlling your blood pressure.

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How Is High Blood Pressure Diagnosed

High blood pressure usually has no symptoms. So the only way to find out if you have it is to get regular blood pressure checks from your health care provider. Your provider will use a gauge, a stethoscope or electronic sensor, and a blood pressure cuff. He or she will take two or more readings at separate appointments before making a diagnosis.

Blood Pressure Category
and 120 or higher

For children and teens, the health care provider compares the blood pressure reading to what is normal for other kids who are the same age, height, and sex.

High Systolic Blood Pressure Stage 1

A high systolic blood pressure stage 1 reading is when systolic blood pressure is between 130-139 mmHg, regardless of the diastolic number 3.

Doctors will recommend lifestyle changes and may consider prescribing medicine based on the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Systolic is just one of over ten topics in my article, What Is The Blood Pressure Chart? All Five BP Categories. Check it out and find out why the elevated pressure range is a major concern moving forward.

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How Is An Unusual Map Treated

An unusual MAP is usually a sign of an underlying condition or problem in the body, so the treatment depends on the cause. causes may include heart conditions, Sepsis, stroke, internal bleeding, and more.

For a low MAP, treatment may focus on safely raising blood pressure quickly to avoid organ damage. This is usually done with:

  • intravenous fluids or blood transfusions to increase blood flow
  • medications called vasopressors that tighten blood vessels, which can increase blood pressure and make the heart beat faster or pump harder

Depending on the cause, treating a high MAP may also require quick action, in this case, to reduce overall blood pressure. This can be done with oral or intravenous nitroglycerin . This medication helps to relax and widen blood vessels, making it easier for blood to reach the heart.

Once the blood pressure is under control, the doctor can continue treating the underlying cause. This may involve:

  • breaking up a stroke-causing blood clot
  • inserting a stent into a coronary artery to keep it open

The Blood Pressure Chart

Do You Know What Your Blood Pressure Reading Means?

Once you know your numbers, you can use the blood pressure chart to see what they mean and if your blood pressure is in the healthy range. The chart is suitable for adults of any age, as the cut-off point for diagnosing high blood pressure doesnt change with age.

How to use the blood pressure chart

Simply find your top number on the left side of the chart and your bottom number on the bottom. Where the two lines meet is your blood pressure.

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