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What Does The Top Number Of Your Blood Pressure Mean

What If Blood Pressure Numbers Are Too Close

Good Question: What Do Your Blood Pressure Numbers Mean?

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Blood pressure is read through systolic and diastolic pressure. The resulting number indicates the pressure exerted on the walls of the arteries as the heart beats. If the resulting numbers are close it may be an indication of high blood pressure or low blood pressure 2.

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.

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. 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.

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.

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When To Check Blood Pressure

  • If your blood pressure is normal , get it checked every year, or more often as your doctor suggests.
  • If your blood pressure is elevated — a systolic blood pressure between 120 and 129 or diastolic blood pressure of less than 80 — your doctor will probably want to check it every 3-6 months. They will probably recommend lifestyle changes like more exercise and a better diet.
  • If you have stage 1 hypertension — 130-139 over 89-90 — the doctor might suggest lifestyle changes and see you again in 3-6 months. Or they could tell you to make the changes and give you medication, then recheck your condition in a month. It depends on what other health conditions or risk factors you have.
  • If you have stage 2 hypertension — 140/90 or higher — youâll likely get medication. You’ll also need to make lifestyle changes and see the doctor again in a month.

How Can I Be More Active

High blood pressure: Like an over
  • Check first with your healthcare provider before increasing your physical activity. Ask your provider what type and amount of exercise is right for you.
  • Choose aerobic activities such as walking, biking or swimming.
  • Start slowly and increase activity gradually. Aim for a regular routine of activity five times a week for 30 to 45 minutes each session.

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What Is A Normal Blood Pressure Reading

Do you know what your blood pressure reading should be?

Blood pressure is the force at which your heart pumps blood around the body and is recorded with 2 numbers. The higher of the numbers is an indication of when the heart is pumping the lower number is the resistance to the blood flow in the blood vessels. Its widely publicised that high and low blood pressure can induce health problems, but what about healthy blood pressure?

What Can Cause Blood Pressure To Go Up Or Down

It’s normal for blood pressure to go up and down throughout the day. Things like exercise, stress, and sleeping can affect your blood pressure. Some medicines can cause your blood pressure to go up. These medicines include certain asthma medicines and cold remedies.

A low blood pressure reading can be caused by many things, including some medicines, a severe allergic reaction, or an infection. Another cause is dehydration, which is when your body loses too much fluid.

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What Causes Low Blood Pressure

Some people have a blood pressure level that is naturally low. That is, there is no specific cause or reason why. It can be the result of a healthy lifestyle and being fit and active, and your genes may play a role.

Your blood pressure varies throughout the day. It might drop when youve just eaten while your blood is carried to your gut, if youve been standing up for a long time, if youre dehydrated, and if the temperature is warm.

There are a number of other possible causes of low blood pressure:

MedicationsLow blood pressure, and low blood pressure when you stand up, can be caused by medications. These include , antidepressants and beta blockers, which are used to treat heart problems.

Health problemsLow blood pressure can also be caused by an illness or health problem.

Heart Attack And Heart Disease

High Blood Pressure: How to Understand the Numbers

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.

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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.

Get enough sleep. For most adults, thatâs 7-8 hours of sleep per night, on a regular basis.

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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Who Is Affected By High Blood Pressure

Approximately 1 in 3, more than 100 million, American adults have high blood pressure. But only half of those people have their condition under control. Many people develop high blood pressure when they are in their late 30s or early 40s, and it occurs more frequently as people age. However, because of the obesity epidemic, more and more children are also developing high blood pressure.

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Healthy And Unhealthy Blood Pressure Ranges

Learn whats considered normal, as recommended by the American Heart Association.

Blood Pressure Chart

SYSTOLIC mm Hg and/or DIASTOLIC mm Hg
NORMAL
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE STAGE 1 130 139
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE STAGE 2 140 OR HIGHER
HYPERTENSIVE CRISIS HIGHER THAN 180 and/or HIGHER THAN 120

Note: A diagnosis of high blood pressure must be confirmed with a medical professional. A doctor should also evaluate any unusually low blood pressure readings.

The five blood pressure ranges as recognized by the American Heart Association are:

Isolated Systolic Hypertension During Pregnancy

3 Reasons You Really Need to Know Your Blood Pressure Numbers

High blood pressure, including isolated systolic hypertension poses various risks during pregnancy including:

  • Placental abruption
  • Diabetes
  • Heart valve problems

I wrote a whole blog post about Isolated Systolic Hypertension which dives into the topics in more detail. You can read it by clicking here, Isolated Systolic Hypertension.

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Its Not Only Your Diet That Affects Your Blood Pressure Its Your Lifestyle Overall

How active you are, whether you smoke and how much alcohol you drink, for example, all make a big difference. In this section, we look at what affects your blood pressure and the best things you can do to lower your blood pressure naturally.

The best part is, all these changes will work together to keep your heart and your body healthy.

See if what you drink is within the recommended guidelines and find out how many units your favourite drinks contain its often more than you think.

Being overweight can raise your blood pressure and put extra strain on your heart. By keeping to a healthy weight, you can look after your blood pressure and your heart.

Exercise can keep you healthy, but it doesnt have to mean running marathons. See how you can be more active and keep it going in the long term.

Stopping smoking is one of the best things you can do for your blood pressure and your overall health. Find out about the benefits and who can help.

Think your high blood pressure is all down to stress? See what the science shows.

Did you know that the amount of sleep you have can affect your blood pressure?

There are lots of simple changes you can make to what you eat to lower your blood pressure, such as eating more fruit and veg and choosing foods low in salt.

Wide Gap Between Top & Bottom Blood Pressure Numbers

Q: My systolic blood pressure has been between 115 and 125 and pretty steady. The diastolic number is low and seems to be falling. Is the difference between systolic and diastolic blood pressure important, and is the falling diastolic number something to worry about?

Systolic pressure — top blood pressure — represents the blood pressure against the vessel walls when the heart is pumping blood. Starting at about age 60, Systolic blood pressure becomes the most important predictor of cardiovascular problems like stroke and heart disease. You should feel very good about your systolic blood pressure, which is in a fine range.

Diastolic pressure — bottom blood pressure — measures the force exerted by blood against vessel walls when the heart is relaxing between beats — that’s why it’s the lower of the two blood pressure numbers. With age, our arteries get a little stiff. As a result, they don’t stretch out as much every time the heart beats, so more blood gets pushed right on through the larger vessels into smaller ones. Because there’s less blood in the large arteries between heartbeats, diastolic blood pressure tends to decrease.

The difference between systolic and diastolic blood pressure is called pulse pressure.

So, in your case, 120 systolic minus 60 diastolic equals a pulse pressure of 60. You can think of pulse pressure as the gap between the peaks and the valleys of your blood pressure.

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How Does Your Circulatory System Work

Your circulatory system is an amazing, complicated and efficient way your body delivers oxygen and nutrients to every part of your body. Following is a simplified version of how it works.

Your heart consists of four chambers: the left and right atrium and the left and right ventricle . When the heart relaxes, blood flows from the atria to the ventricles. Then the ventricles pump, sending oxygen-rich blood to the arteries.

The arteries send blood throughout your bodys network of capillaries, where it releases nutrients. The blood then gathers carbon dioxide and returns to the heart through the veins where the process starts over again.

What Are The Causes Of The Top Number In Your Blood Pressure To Be High

What Do the Blood Pressure Numbers Mean and What Is a Target Blood Pressure?

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Which Blood Pressure Number Is The Most Important

  • Which Blood Pressure Number Is the Most Important? Center
  • The blood that flows through the arteries exerts pressure against the arterial walls. A predetermined range of this blood pressure is generally maintained by the body. Certain triggers may increase this blood pressure. Persistently elevated blood pressure may damage the heart, kidneys, brain and even the eyes.

    When the blood pressure is measured, the result gives two numbers. For example, the blood pressure result is 120/80 mmHg. The number above is called the systolic blood pressure and the number below is called the diastolic blood pressure. The systolic blood pressure reflects the pressure over the heart, whereas the diastolic blood pressure reflects the status of the blood pressure. Though both readings are important, many doctors believe that systolic blood pressure is a better predictor of complications of hypertension, such as heart disease or stroke.

    There is a strong correlation noted between the deaths due to heart disease and systolic blood pressure. The measurement of only the systolic blood pressure predicts the heart risk better than the diastolic blood pressure. In elderly people, isolated systolic hypertension is the most frequent form of elevated blood pressure seen.

    What Medications Are Used To Treat High Blood Pressure

    Four classes of high blood pressure medications are considered first line when starting treatment. Sometimes other medications are coupled with these first-line drugs to better control your high blood pressure. First-line, pressure-lowering medications are:

    • Angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors block the production of the angiotensin II hormone, which the body naturally uses to control blood pressure. When angiotensin II is blocked, your blood vessels dont narrow. Examples: lisinopril , enalapril or captopril.
    • Angiotensin II receptor blockers block this same hormone from binding with receptors in the blood vessels. ARBs work the same way as ACE inhibitors to keep blood vessels from narrowing. Examples: metoprolol , valsartan or losartan.
    • Calcium channel blockers prevent calcium from entering the muscle cells of your heart and blood vessels, allowing these vessels to relax. Examples: amlodipine , nifedipine , diltiazem .
    • Diuretics flush excess sodium from your body, reducing the amount of fluid in your blood. Diuretics are often used with other high blood pressure medicines, sometimes in one combined pill. Examples: indapamide, hydrochlorothiazide or chlorothiazide.

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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.

    Heart Rate And Exercise

    Blood Pressure Readings Explained

    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.

    Learn more:

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    Why Is My Bottom Blood Pressure Number High

    Blood pressure is the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your arteries, which carry blood to other parts of your body. Your blood pressure can be measured using two numbers:

    • Systolic : pressure exerted when the heart pumps blood throughout the body
    • Diastolic : pressure exerted when the heart relaxes and refills with blood

    When your blood pressure is consistently higher than 130/80 mm Hg, you are considered to have hypertension.

    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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