When To Call Your Doctor
The risks of both high and low blood pressure make monitoring your blood pressure at home essential to your overall health and well-being. Both Dr. Wong and Dr. Desai recommend calling your healthcare provider if your self-monitored blood pressure readings are greater than 180/120 mmHgeven if you have no other symptoms.
You should call 911 if these blood pressure readings are associated with symptoms of organ damage, such as headache, vision changes, weakness, numbness, chest pain or shortness of breath, says Dr. Wong.
Treatment Of Low Diastolic Blood Pressure
Treating isolated diastolic hypotension is more difficult than treating general hypotension. If youre taking an alpha-blocker, your doctor can change you to a different high blood pressure medication.
If you have isolated low diastolic pressure and youre not on blood pressure medication, the only option may be to see your doctor more frequently for checkups and to watch for symptoms of heart failure. Currently, there isnt any medication available to treat isolated diastolic hypotension.
Treatment of general hypotension depends on the cause.
Overtreatment of high blood pressure can be managed by adjusting or changing medications. The goal is to keep the diastolic blood pressure between 60 and 90 mm Hg. Your doctor may also change other medications that cause hypotension.
Dehydration can be treated with fluid replacement. In some cases, you may need medications that increase blood pressure.
Further Testing For High Blood Pressure
If your readings are consistently high, your doctor may order more tests to find out why your numbers are elevated. You may need the following tests:
- Urine test
- Ultrasound for your heart or kidneys
These tests can also tell if theres any damage to your organs before you start hypertension treatment.
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Can High Blood Pressure Affect Pregnancy
High blood pressure complicates about 10% of all pregnancies. There are several different types of high blood pressure during pregnancy and range from mild to serious. The forms of high blood pressure during pregnancy include:
Chronic hypertension: High blood pressure which is present prior to pregnancy.
Chronic hypertension with superimposed preeclampsia: Preeclampsia, which develops in someone who has chronic hypertension .
Gestational hypertension: High blood pressure in the latter part of pregnancy, but no other signs or symptoms of preeclampsia are present. Some women will later develop preeclampsia, while others probably have high blood pressure before the pregnancy.
Preeclampsia: This is found in the latter half of pregnancy and results in hypertension, protein in the urine and generalized swelling in the mother. It can affect other organs in the body and cause seizures .
Your blood pressure will be checked regularly during prenatal appointments, but if you have concerns about your blood pressure, be sure to talk with your provider.
What Does A Blood Pressure Reading Look Like
When you have your blood pressure measured, you will be given two numbers, a top number and a bottom number.
- Systolic blood pressure. This is the first, or top, number. This is the highest level your blood pressure reaches when your heart beats, forcing blood around your body.
- Diastolic blood pressure. The second number, or bottom number, is the lowest level your blood pressure reaches as your heart relaxes between beats.
Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury . If the first number is 120 and the second number is 80, this would be written as 120/80mmHg, and youd call it 120 over 80.
This video explains more about systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
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What Does Blood Pressure Tell You
Blood pressure measures the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your arteries, or blood vessels. Your heart pumps blood into your arteries. And the arteries carry that blood to the rest of your body.
The top number of your blood pressure reading tells you the force of the blood against artery walls when your heart beats. It is called systolic pressure. The bottom number tells you what your blood pressure is when your heart is at rest between heartbeats. It is called diastolic pressure.
How Accurate Is My Blood Pressure Reading
Some people have what’s called “white coat” syndrome. Their blood pressure goes up due to about being in the doctor’s office. Other people relax more in a medical setting and have pressure readings that are lower than in their daily lives.
If a doctor suspects the office readings aren’t representative of your true pressure, he or she may suggest measuring your blood pressure with a home monitor or at a pharmacy or other public site to compare with your office readings. You may also be tested with a monitoring device that you wear for 24 hours. This device will automatically take your blood pressure at various times to get a more accurate average reading.
Blood pressure varies for most people throughout the day. Pressure in the morning is generally higher, but it can range quite a bit depending on activities, such as exercise or eating stress or excitement or whether you’ve had caffeine or other stimulants. Taking a sampling of pressures during your day can give a better picture than a one-shot reading in the doctors office.
The American Heart Association recommends people older than 20 with normal blood pressureless than 120/80get their blood pressure checked by their doctor at least every two years. If your pressure is higher, your doctor will likely advise you to have it checked more frequently so it can be kept under control.
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How Do Blood Pressure Medicines Work
Blood pressure medicines can work several different ways. Blood pressure medicines can keep blood pressure at a healthy level by1:
- Causing your body to get rid of water, which decreases the amount of water and salt in your body to a healthy level
- Relaxing your blood vessels
- Making your heart beat with less force
- Blocking nerve activity that can restrict your blood vessels
Talk with your health care team about the best type of treatment for you. You may need to take more than one type of medicine to control your blood pressure. You can also talk to your health care team about how long it should take your blood pressure medicine to work.
It is important to take your blood pressure medicine exactly as your doctor tells you to. Do not stop taking your current medicine without talking to your doctor or pharmacist first. Stopping your blood pressure medicine without first talking to your health care team could lead to serious health consequences.
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:
Prevention And Management Of Low Diastolic Blood Pressure
There are some things you can do to help prevent and manage low diastolic pressure.
- Try to keep your salt intake to between 1.5 and 4 grams per day. An ideal number is probably about 3.5 grams. You can do this by reading food labels and avoiding added salt in your diet.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and include whole grains. For protein, stick to lean meats and fish. Avoid fatty foods.
- Drink enough fluids and avoid alcohol, which can increase your risk for dehydration.
- Stay physically active and start an exercise program. Ask your doctor what type and amount of exercise is safe for you.
- Maintain a healthy weight. If youre overweight, ask your doctor to help you with a safe weight loss plan.
- Dont smoke.
The Blood Pressure Chart
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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What Can Parents Do
Ask your doctor to measure your childs blood pressure starting at age 3. Helping children keep a healthy weight, eat nutritious foods, and get regular physical activity can lower their blood pressure and reduce their risk for cardiovascular disease later in life. Try these tips to help your child keep a healthy weight and normal blood pressure:
Food and Drinks
- Offer nutritious, lower-calorie foods such as fruits and vegetablesexternal icon in place of foods high in added sugars and solid fats. Try serving more fruits and vegetables at meals and as snacks.
- Provide foods that are low in sodium . Sodium raises blood pressure. Nearly 9 in 10 U.S. children eat more sodium than is recommended. Learn more about sodium.
- Make sure water is always available as a no-calorie alternative to sugary drinks, and limit juice.
- Help your child get the recommended amount of physical activity each day. Choose from many age-appropriate activities.
- Be aware of your childs growth. Learn how obesity is measured in children, and use CDCs Child and Teen BMI Calculator to screen your child for potential weight issues.
- Be a role model! Eat healthy meals and snacks, and get the right amount of physical activity every day.
- Help shape a healthy school environment using CDCs Parents for Healthy Schools resources.
What Does Dia Mean In Blood Pressure Readings
In blood pressure readings, dia refers to diastolic pressure. Diastolic and systolic readings are expressed as two numbers, one atop the other and divided by a line. The diastolic is the bottom number, and represents the pressure in the blood vessels when the heart is at rest. The top number, the systolic blood pressure, represents the pressure within the blood vessels when the heart is contracting, according to the American Heart Association.
A normal systolic blood pressure is less than 120. When the systolic pressure is between 120 and 139, the person has borderline high blood pressure. When the top number is 140 or greater, the person has high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Normal diastolic pressure is less than 80. A diastolic blood pressure between 80 and 90 indicates pre-hypertension, while a diastolic blood pressure over 90 indicates hypertension. Elevated blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease, according to WebMD.
Blood pressure tests are a crucial part of health checkups. Blood pressure tests are painless and are generally performed by a nurse or medical technician. Persons should empty their bladders and refrain from smoking, eating or consuming caffeine for at least one hour prior to a blood pressure test, says Mayo Clinic.
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Tips For Measuring Your Blood Pressure
- Sit for at least 5 minutes before your blood pressure is measured.
- Do not smoke or drink caffeine 30 minutes before you measure your blood pressure.
- If you are nervous when you go to the doctor, you could have a false high blood pressure reading. This is called white coat syndrome. If this happens, your doctor may ask you to: Use a blood pressure monitor to check your blood pressure throughout the day. You can bring a record of your readings to your appointments.
Some people are asked to wear a blood pressure monitor for 24 hours. The monitor is usually set to take blood pressure every 15 to 30 minutes as you go about your normal activities.
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.
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What Happens During A Blood Pressure Check
To measure your blood pressure, your doctor or nurse will put a cuff around your upper arm and inflate it, essentially cutting off blood flow in the brachial artery carrying blood from your shoulder to your elbow.
Next, the provider slowly releases this pressure, which lets blood flow back into your artery. He or she listens to this blood flow via a stethoscope, and also watches the pressure reading on a gauge attached to the cuff. This gauge indicates the pressure in the artery in units of millimeters of mercury .
Your blood pressure reading includes two numbers. The first, or top, number is the systolic pressure, which reflects the force of your blood inside your arteries when your heart muscle contracts. The number is recorded when the first heartbeat is heard through the stethoscope.
The second, or bottom number, is your diastolic pressure, which shows what happens in your artery between heartbeatsthe degree to which your artery relaxes and opens to allow the heart muscle to refill with blood. The number is recorded the moment the heartbeat becomes too quiet to hear.
High Diastolic Blood Pressure Consequences
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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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.