Which Number Matters More
The answer is both. Years ago, doctors focused more on the bottom number, but it is now understood that the top number is just as important.
Both numbers can define high blood pressure and the need for treatment, Baker said.
A normal reading is less than 120 over 80. Readings above that are now considered elevated or high. The new guidelines, which were announced last November and are based on years of data, now mean that many more Americans are categorized as having high blood pressure.
High blood pressure is not a disease by itself, but its a risk factor for things like heart attack, kidney failure, stroke and more, Baker said. The new guidelines dont necessarily mean that many more people have to be on medication. They just mean a very large number of people need to be aware they have elevated or high blood pressure and need to do something about it.
Blood Pressure: What Your Numbers Mean For Your Health
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.
What Numbers Mean High Blood Pressure What Numbers Mean Normal Blood Pressure
Normal blood pressure is at or under 120 over 80.
In November 2017, blood pressure guidelines were modified. Any blood pressure measurement at or above 130 over 80 is now considered high. And thats what we in the medical community call hypertension. These numbers are down from the old recommendation of 140 over 90.
In the past, many people in the United States were considered prehypertension. The new recommendations get rid of that category, and now almost half of U.S. adults fall into the category of hypertension. That could seem shocking. But patients who are in this category should already be discussing their blood pressure numbers with their primary care doctor. If they arent, now is a good time to connect with their medical provider and come up with a plan for treatment.
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What Can I Do To Lower My Blood Pressure
There are things we can all do to help control blood pressure. These lifestyle modifications are changes you can make in your daily life.
- Follow the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH diet. This includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products with reduced saturated and total fat.
- Increase your physical activity. Add 90 to 150 minutes each week of aerobic exercise. Also, include three days of strength training each week. Not only can this help reduce or control your blood pressure, but it can also help with weight management. In overweight individuals, a weight loss of even five to 10 percent has been shown to reduce blood pressure.
- Limit your alcohol. It is recommended that men have no more than two drinks per day and women have no more than one to help control blood pressure.
- Manage your stress. Because stress can have a major impact on our bodies, it is important to have an effective coping technique. There are many techniques for relaxation.
- If you smoke, quit. Quitting smoking can have a huge impact on your health.
These are some of the most proactive ways one can support a normal blood pressure and an overall healthy life. But sometimes, even a healthy lifestyle is not enough to maintain a safe blood pressure. When lifestyle modifications do not lower blood pressure to better levels, medication can be prescribed.
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Preventing High Blood Pressure
To keep your blood pressure in the normal range, your daily habits are key. These things help:
Donât smoke. Among the many health problems that smoking causes, it raises your blood pressure.
Make physical activity a habit. Most experts recommend at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity five or more times a week. Or you could do a harder activity for a shorter period of time per session.
Eat right. Read food labels to see how much sodium is in a serving. Check with your doctor to find out what your daily limit should be. Include a lot of vegetables and fruits, along with whatever else you choose to put on your plate.
Stick to a healthy weight. Extra pounds raise your blood pressure. If youâre not sure what a healthy weight would be for you, ask your doctor.
If you drink alcohol, limit it to no more than one drink a day if youâre a woman and up to two drinks a day if youâre a man.
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Ways To Lower Diastolic Blood Pressure
There are many ways to lower diastolic blood pressure. You need to know that high diastolic blood pressure needs treatment too. For example, if you have high cholesterol levels in addition to having a high diastolic blood pressure reading on your medical report then medication will treat both conditions at once.
Focus on heart-healthy foods
You can lower your blood pressure by making some changes to what you eat. For example, you might eat less meat and more vegetables. Olive oil, garlic, and tomatoes are good for your heart. They can help lower your cholesterol levels.
Limit saturated and trans fats
Saturated and trans fats can hurt your heart. This can happen if you eat too much of them each day. If you eat too many of these fats, then your heart will have problems. You should avoid eating too much because it can make your heart sick. Dont drink whole milk and dont eat cheese. They have a lot of fat in them.
Reduce sodium in your diet
You need to reduce your sodium levels if you have high blood pressure. For example, you should not use soy sauce to cook with. Instead, use fresh herbs or lemon juice. Also, choose low-sodium foods at the supermarket so that you can eat healthy with ease.
Eat more potassium
You can get potassium by eating fruits and vegetables. For example, bananas are good for you because they have potassium in them that can lower your blood pressure if you eat them regularly.
Lay off the caffeine
Cut back on alcohol
Switch to dark chocolate
How Is High Blood Pressure Diagnosed
High blood pressure is diagnosed with a blood pressure monitor. This is a common test for all doctor visits. A nurse will place a band around your arm. The band is attached to a small pump and a meter. He or she will squeeze the pump. It will feel tight around your arm. Then he or she will stop and watch the meter. This provides the nurse with 2 numbers that make up your blood pressure. The top number is your systolic reading . The bottom number is your diastolic reading . You may also hear the doctor or nurse say a blood pressure is 120 over 80.
- Normal blood pressure is less than 120 on top and less than 80 on the bottom.
- Prehypertension levels are 120-139 on top and 80-89 on the bottom.
- High blood pressure, stage 1 is 140-159 on top and 90-99 on the bottom.
- High blood pressure, stage 2 is 160 or higher on top and 100 and over on the bottom.
The higher your blood pressure is, the more often you need to have it checked. After age 18, have your blood pressure checked at least once every two years. Do it more often if you have had high blood pressure in the past.
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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
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.
Signs And Symptoms Of Hypertension
Often, kids and teens with pre-hypertension or stage 1 hypertension wont show any symptoms at all. If your child has stage 2 hypertension, she might experience one or more of the following symptoms:
- abdominal pain
- breathing problems
An infant with stage 2 hypertension may seem irritable, not be feeding properly, or vomiting. Sometimes these infants are diagnosed with failure to thrive.
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How Is Blood Pressure Measured
A special cuff is used to measure your blood pressure. The cuff inflates and deflates, and during the process, your pressures are measured. Many times, a stethoscope is also used.
Blood pressure readings
Blood pressure is recorded as two measurements: systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Systolic blood pressure is the top/first number, and diastolic blood pressure is the bottom/second number. The numbers are expressed as millimeter of mercury
Systolic blood pressureThe pressure in the arteries when the heart is beating and the arteries are filled with blood
Diastolic blood pressureThe pressure in the arteries when the heart is resting between beats
What do the numbers mean?Your blood pressure can be normal, elevated, or you may have Stage 1 or 2 hypertension .Normal blood pressure is < 120/< 80 mmHgElevated blood pressure is 120-129/< 80 mmHgStage 1 hypertension is 130-139 OR 80-89 Stage 2 hypertension is 140 or higher OR 90 or higher
Two or more readings are needed to determine if you have high blood pressure.
GET IMMEDIATE MEDICAL ATTENTION!IF YOUR TOP NUMBER IS EVER 180 OR HIGHER AND/OR YOUR BOTTOM NUMBER IS EVER 110 OR HIGHER, GET EMERGENCY MEDICAL TREATMENT OR HAVE SOMEONE TAKE YOU TO THE HOSPITAL RIGHT AWAY!
What Causes High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure usually develops over time. It can happen because of unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as not getting enough regular physical activity. Certain health conditions, such as diabetes and having obesity, can also increase the risk for developing high blood pressure. High blood pressure can also happen during pregnancy.
You can manage your blood pressure to lower your risk for serious health problems that may affect your heart, brain, kidneys, and eyes.
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Which Blood Pressure Number Is Important
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. Thats 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.
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What Do Blood Pressure Numbers Mean
There are two sets of blood pressure numbers: systolic and diastolic. The top number of a blood pressure reading is called systolic. This means that your heart squeezes the hardest when it pumps blood through your blood vessels. Diastolic is the lower number. It is between each heartbeat. Your heart rests so it can fill with more blood.
Diastolic blood pressure is important because it gives us an idea of how well your heart is relaxing between each heartbeat, but the standard diastolic blood pressure number you hear about in most cases isnt exactly accurate for everyone. This person is on medication that slows down their metabolism. This means they will have a low pulse rate without any effort.
There are a few different ways to determine your diastolic blood pressure. You can get it done in the doctors office using an inflatable cuff, you could use one of those automated cuffs that take readings every time they sense your pulse or if you have access to home monitors then there is always that option as well. If you do not know what your blood pressure number is, ask your doctor.
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How To Lower Blood Pressure With A Tennis Ball
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What You Can Do
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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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.