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What Does My Blood Pressure Reading Mean

Heart Rate And Exercise

What is a Normal Blood Pressure Reading?

In discussions about high blood pressure, you will often see heart rate mentioned in relation to exercise. Your target heart rate is based on age and can help you monitor the intensity of your exercise.

  • If you measure your heart rate before, during and after physical activity, youll notice it will increase over the course of the exercise.
  • The greater the intensity of the exercise, the more your heart rate will increase.
  • When you stop exercising, your heart rate does not immediately return to your normal heart rate.
  • The more fit you are, the sooner your heart rate will return to normal.

What Are The Different Types Of High Blood Pressure

There are two main types of high blood pressure: primary and secondary high blood pressure.:

  • Primary, or essential, high blood pressure is the most common type of high blood pressure. For most people who get this kind of blood pressure, it develops over time as you get older.
  • Secondary high blood pressure is caused by another medical condition or use of certain medicines. It usually gets better after you treat that condition or stop taking the medicines that are causing it.

Blood Pressure Monitor Vs Blood Pressure Cuff

Blood pressure monitor and blood pressure cuff are two phrases often used to describe the same blood pressure measurement tool. The blood pressure cuff is the element that wraps around either the upper arm, wrist or finger to measure blood pressure. The blood pressure monitor is the element in charge of inflating and deflating the cuff, as well as providing your blood pressure reading on an easy-to-read display.

Most experts recommend using a blood pressure monitor with an upper arm blood pressure cuff for at-home readings because they tend to be more accurate than wrist cuffs and finger cuffs.

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Hypertensive Crisis: When You Should Call 911 For High Blood Pressure

A hypertensive crisis is when blood pressure rises quickly and severely with readings of 180/120 or greater.

The consequences of uncontrolled blood pressure in this range can be severe and include:

  • Pulmonary edema
  • Eclampsia

An elevated reading may or may not be accompanied by one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Severe headache
  • Severe anxiety

Salt Intake And High Blood Pressure

What does your blood pressure reading mean for your health?

Reducing the amount of salt you eat can also help to manage or even avoid high blood pressure. To help reduce your salt intake:

  • Ensure your diet consists of wholefoods including vegetables, fruits, wholegrains, lean meat and poultry, fish and seafood, legumes, unsalted nuts and seeds.
  • Avoid packaged and processed foods that are high in salt. You cant see the salt in these foods, so you dont know how much salt you are having. Get into the habit of checking food labels.
  • Choose low-salt food where possible. If you cant find low-salt products, those with moderate amounts of salt are ok too. Another simple alternative is to look for labels with low salt, salt reduced or no added salt.
  • Avoid adding salt to cooking or at the table flavour meals with herbs and spices instead.

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Heart Tissue Damage And Heart Disease

Researchers have found a link between low diastolic blood pressure and heart damage.A 2016 study that lasted more than 3 decades and involved more than 11,000 people found that a diastolic blood pressure below 60 mm Hg is dangerous.People with this level are 50 percent more likely to have heart damage. This is compared with those who have a low diastolic pressure level between 80 and 89 mm Hg.Heart disease is another concern. The same study found that those with low diastolic blood pressure were 49 percent more likely to develop heart disease.

What Are The Causes Of High Blood Pressure

Elevated blood pressure increases your risk of chronic high blood pressure as you age. Taking steps to manage your blood pressure helps decrease this risk.

There are also some health conditions that increase your risks of chronic high blood pressure, including obesity and diabetes. Other causes include:

  • Genetics/family history
  • Lack of exercise
  • Alcohol or tobacco abuse

As adults age, their odds of high blood pressure increase, with 90% of Americans forecasted to develop high blood pressure in their lifetimes. Black people tend to develop high blood pressure more often and earlier in life compared to white people. Hispanics, Asians, American Indians, and Pacific Islanders also stand an increased risk of high blood pressure compared to other ethnicities.

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High Blood Pressure Chart

and/or > 120 mm Hg

In these new guidelines, the AHA also advises that doctors should only prescribe medication in cases of a previous heart attack or stroke, or in the presence of risk factors for these conditions, such as age, a diabetes diagnosis, or chronic kidney disease.

Treatment at the earlier stages of high blood pressure should instead come mainly through lifestyle changes.

Circulation is similar to a highly sophisticated form of plumbing blood has flow, and arteries are pipes. A basic law of physics gives rise to blood flow, and this law also applies in a garden hose pipe.

Blood flows through the body because of a difference in pressure.

Blood pressure is highest at the start of its journey from the heart when it enters the aorta and it is lowest at the end of its journey along progressively smaller branches of arteries. That pressure difference is what causes blood to flow.

Arteries affect blood pressure in a similar way to the physical properties of a garden hose pipe affecting water pressure. Constricting the pipe increases pressure at the point of constriction.

Without the elastic nature of the artery walls, for example, the pressure of the blood would fall away more quickly as it is pumped from the heart.

While the heart creates the maximum pressure, the properties of the arteries are just as important to maintaining it and allowing blood to flow throughout the body.

What You Can Do

Blood Pressure: How High is Too High and How Do I Lower it Safely?

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.

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High Blood Pressure And Older Adults

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High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a major health problem that is common in older adults. Your bodys network of blood vessels, known as the vascular system, changes with age. Arteries get stiffer, causing blood pressure to go up. This can be true even for people who have heart-healthy habits and feel just fine. High blood pressure, sometimes called “the silent killer,” often does not cause signs of illness that you can see or feel. Though it affects nearly half of all adults, many may not even be aware they have it.

If high blood pressure isn’t controlled with lifestyle changes and medication, it can lead to serious health problems, including cardiovascular disease such as heart disease and stroke, vascular dementia, eye problems, and kidney disease. The good news is that blood pressure can be controlled in most people.

Which Number Is Most Important

Both. Having a high number in either systolic or diastolic pressure can lead to a diagnosis of hypertension . However, systolic pressure tends to get more attention because high systolic blood pressure is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease for people over 50, and it can indicate major cardiac events.

Also note: Heart rate and blood pressure are not the same, and they can indicate different issues. The American Heart Association reports that blood pressure measures the force that blood moves through blood vessels, and heart rate measures the amount of times your heart beats per minute. Having a healthy heart rate does not necessarily mean your blood pressure is in a healthy range. Both measurements are important, but one does not replace the other.

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Low Blood Pressure Or Hypotension

This is the condition where the blood pressure drops down below the normal range, i.e., 90/60 mm Hg. Dropping blood pressure is not a matter of concern but, an excessive drop in it can lower oxygenated blood supply to the body and heart. This reduced supply can be dangerous to the person. Hence, consult a doctor to get the proper treatment for low blood pressure before it turns critical.

What Is Low Diastolic Blood Pressure

What do my numbers mean? Blood pressure readings explained

Your blood pressure is the force inside your blood vessels when your heart beats and relaxes. This force is measured in millimeters of mercury and is represented as two numbers.

The upper number, called your systolic pressure, is measured when your heart beats. The lower number, called your diastolic pressure, is measured when your heart relaxes between beats.

High blood pressure can increase your risk of heart disease or stroke, but low blood pressure can also be a problem.

The medical term for low blood pressure is hypotension. If you have hypotension, your systolic pressure measurement is under 90 mm Hg and your diastolic number is under 60 mm Hg. Doctors have started to raise concerns specifically about diastolic blood pressure below 60.

Some people can have low diastolic pressure even when their systolic pressure is typical. This condition is called isolated diastolic hypotension. Low diastolic blood pressure may be particularly dangerous for your heart.

Unlike the rest of your body, which receives blood when your heart pumps, the muscles of your heart receive blood when your heart relaxes.

If your diastolic blood pressure is too low, your heart muscles wont get enough oxygenated blood. This can lead to weakening of your heart, a condition called diastolic heart failure.

You may be at higher risk of this type of heart failure if you have coronary heart disease, which is narrowing of your heart arteries.

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Does High Blood Pressure Increase Heart Rate

Heart rate and blood pressure do not necessarily increase at the same rate. A rising heart rate does not cause your blood pressure to increase at the same rate. Even though your heart is beating more times a minute, healthy blood vessels dilate to allow more blood to flow through more easily. When you exercise, your heart speeds up so more blood can reach your muscles. It may be possible for your heart rate to double safely, while your blood pressure may respond by only increasing a modest amount.

When To Get Blood Pressure Readings

A normal person who has never has high blood pressure does not require regular readings beyond their yearly check-ups, Kazemi said. Patients with a history of hypertension should be checked more frequently. Talk to your doctor about how often you should have your blood pressure checked, and follow that schedule closely.

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Average Blood Pressure By Age

As you get older, your blood vessels tend to become stiffer and plaque can build up in them, which can raise your blood pressure. If your blood pressure becomes too high, you’re at a greater risk for heart disease, strokes, and more.

In 2015, the average blood pressure worldwide was 127/79 mm Hg in men, and 122/77 mm Hg in women, according to a study analysis published in Lancet.

When researchers for the National Center for Health Statistics looked at average blood pressure in U.S. adults between 2001 and 2008, the average reading was 122/71 mm Hg. The breakout was 124/72 mm Hg for men, and 121/70 mm Hg in women. It rose by age and was significantly higher in Black people.

The researchers found the following breakdown by age, sex, and race or ethnicity:

Blood Pressure by Age

As the population ages and life expectancy increases, high blood pressure is becoming more common.

What Are The Treatments For High Blood Pressure

How Blood Pressure Readings Work

Treatments for high blood pressure include heart-healthy lifestyle changes and medicines.

You will work with your provider to come up with a treatment plan. It may include only the lifestyle changes. These changes, such as heart-healthy eating and exercise, can be very effective. But sometimes the changes do not control or lower your high blood pressure. Then you may need to take medicine. There are different types of blood pressure medicines. Some people need to take more than one type.

If your high blood pressure is caused by another medical condition or medicine, treating that condition or stopping the medicine may lower your blood pressure.

NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

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How To Take Blood Pressure

You can take your blood pressure at home using a wrist blood pressure monitor or an upper arm cuff blood pressure monitor. Experts typically recommend upper arm cuffs because they are the most accurate. Upper arm cuffs can come with either a manual or digital monitor. Both work well, but if youre measuring your blood pressure on your own regularly, a digital one will likely be easiest to use correctly.

To take your blood pressure accurately with a digital upper arm cuff, start by sitting quietly in an upright position for a few minutes, allowing your body a moment to relax. Be mindful to uncross your legs and ankles, as well as use comfortable support for your back.

With the monitor sitting on a table in front of you, place your arm next to itat approximately heart leveland place the cuff around your bare upper arm about one inch above your elbow. Secure the cuff so that you can only slide a fingertip under the top edge.

Next, simply turn on the monitor, press the start button, and take normal breaths as the cuff inflates and deflates, measuring your blood pressure and producing your reading on the screen.

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.

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High Systolic Blood Pressure

The heart muscle pushes out blood with higher pressure when a person is exercising, under stress, or at any time when the heart rate is increased. The systolic pressure goes up with it.

In these cases, the increased pressure is normal. However, when the pressure is high while a person is resting, that is not normal and is considered high blood pressure.

Since your blood pressure can go up when you’re active, it’s important to take your blood pressure during periods of quiet rest to accurately diagnose high blood pressure .

High systolic blood pressure is usually caused by the narrowing of the arteries, which makes the heart have to work harder to push blood through them.

Normal Blood Pressure By Age Race And Gender

Do You Know What Your Blood Pressure Reading Means?

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.

The reason for this variance can range from substandard insurance coverage and poor access to healthcare to gaps in the use of medications to treat multiple conditions with reduced compliance in certain groups, he adds.

As for gender, theres increasing evidence for risk of cardiovascular disease in women with blood pressures lower than what is considered normal, says Jennifer Wong, M.D., medical director of non-invasive cardiology at MemorialCare Heart and Vascular Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, California.

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Taking Your Pulse Versus Checking Your Blood Pressure

While both are indications of health, blood pressure and heart rate are two separate measurements. Learn more about the difference between blood pressure and heart rate.

Systolic is less than 120 and my diastolic is less than 80

Great job! Your blood pressure is normal. To keep your readings in this range, stick with heart-healthy habits like following a balanced diet and getting regular exercise.

Systolic is 120 129 and my diastolic is less than 80

The good news is that you dont have high blood pressure. However, your numbers fall within the Elevated category, making you more likely to develop high blood pressure unless you take action to control it. Ready to make some small changes that have big impacts? Healthy lifestyle choices are a great place to start.

Systolic is 130 139 or my diastolic is 80 89

You are in the first stage of hypertension, but there are actions you can take to get your blood pressure under control. Your doctor will speak to you about small changes that can make a big difference and other BP Raisers. In addition, monitoring blood pressure outside of the doctors office is important for BP control.

Systolic is 140 or higher or my diastolic is 90 or higher

Systolic is higher than 180 and/or my diastolic is higher than 120

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

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