What Is Normal Blood Pressure
Blood pressure ranges for adults are:
- High: Systolic of 130 or above and/or diastolic of 80 or above
- Elevated: Systolic between 120 and 129 and diastolic of 79 or below
- Normal: Systolic of 119 or below and diastolic of 79 or below
- Low: Systolic of less than 100 and/or diastolic of less than 60
- Some people may have normal or asymptomatic blood pressures lower than 100/60
- In people who have chronically high blood pressure , symptoms of low blood pressure may occur at readings above 100/60
The normal blood pressure for adolescents 13 years or older is less than 120/80 mmHg.
In younger children, the normal range for blood pressure is determined by the child’s sex, age, and height. The normal range is expressed as a percentile, similar to charts used to track children’s growth.
How Is High Blood Pressure Diagnosed
High blood pressure is usually diagnosed by a health care professional after a blood pressure screening during an annual checkup. If your blood pressure is usually normal, one high reading is likely nothing to worry about.
Blood pressure can be temporarily raised by lots of different things such as physical activity, dehydration, what you eat or drink, and even the temperature outside. Just being in the doctors office can raise blood pressure.
So before diagnosing high blood pressure, your doctor will likely look at past readings and possibly take another reading. If theyre still not sure, they may recommend additional testing with a home blood pressure monitoring system. And depending on your risk factors or other health conditions, you may be referred to a cardiologist who specializes in cardiovascular diseases .
Elevated Systolic Blood Pressure
An elevated blood pressure reading is when systolic blood pressure is between 120-129 mmHg and diastolic is less than 80 mmHg.
If systolic blood pressure is elevated, the risk of developing high blood pressure is greater. For consistent readings in this range a doctor will typically recommend the following:
- Recommend lifestyle changes.
- Attend scheduled physician visits.
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Checking Blood Pressure At Home
Keeping track of blood pressure at home is important for many people, especially if you have high blood pressure. This helps you and your doctor find out if your treatment is working.
Your doctor may also suggest that you check your pressure at home if they think you may have “white coat hypertension.” It’s a real condition. The stress of being in a doctor’s office raises your blood pressure, but when you’re home, it’s normal.
Ask your doctor to recommend an easy-to-use home blood pressure monitor. Make sure the cuff fits properly. If your arm is too big for the cuff, the reading may be higher than your blood pressure really is. Ask your doctor for a larger cuff or make sure you buy a home monitor with a cuff that fits you.
You also can use a wrist blood pressure monitor, but they often aren’t as accurate. Follow the directions that come with the device to make sure you are using it correctly.
No matter which type of blood pressure monitor you have, it’s a good idea to take it to your doctor’s office. You can compare its reading to the numbers your doctor gets. Avoid caffeine, cigarettes, and exercise for at least 30 minutes before the test.
When you take your blood pressure at home, sit up straight in a chair and put both feet on the floor. Ask your doctor or nurse to show you the right way to position your arm so you get accurate readings.
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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Tips For Taking Blood Pressure Medication
Untreated high blood pressure can increase your risk of serious health problems. If your doctor prescribes medication to lower your blood pressure, remember:
- If you take blood pressure medication and your blood pressure goes down, it means medication and lifestyle changes are working. If another doctor asks if you have high blood pressure, the answer is, “Yes, but it is being treated.”
- Healthy lifestyle changes may help lower the dosage you need.
- Get up slowly from a seated or lying position and stand for a bit before walking. This lets your blood pressure adjust before walking to prevent lightheadedness and falls.
- Tell your doctor about all the drugs you take. Don’t forget to mention over-the-counter drugs, including vitamins and supplements. They may affect your blood pressure. They also can change how well your blood pressure medication works.
- Blood pressure medication should be taken at the same time each day as part of your daily routine. For example, take it in the morning with breakfast or in the evening before brushing your teeth. If you miss a dose, do not double the dose the next day.
- Remember to refill your medication before you run out and bring it with you when traveling. Its important to keep taking your medication unless your doctor tells you to stop.
- Before having surgery, ask your doctor if you should take your blood pressure medication on the day of your operation.
How To Read Blood Pressure
Your healthcare provider can take your blood pressure readings.
You can also read your blood pressure at home using a blood pressure monitor.
Follow your providers directions or the guidelines below for the most accurate readings:
- Rest: Blood pressure rises naturally after physical activity, so avoid taking a reading within 30 minutes of any type of exertion.
- Sit correctly:Sit with your back straight, feet flat on the floor, and legs uncrossed. Then support the arm that youre using for the measurement on a flat surface with your upper arm at heart level.
- Place the cuff correctly: Check the instructions of your monitor for precise directions. In general, place the bottom of the blood pressure cuff directly on your skin above the bend of your elbow.
- Take multiple readings: Each time you measure your blood pressure, take 2-3 readings one minute apart from each other. Do this twice daily at the same times each day.
A single high BP reading does not mean youre hypertensive.
If you get a reading thats high for you, rest for a few minutes, then take a few more blood pressure readings. If those are high, contact your healthcare provider.
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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.
About Systolic & Diastolic Blood Pressure During Exercise
Blood pressure is typically measured when the body is at rest, so it can be surprising to learn how much this common vital sign changes with physical activity. In fact, exercise causes an immediate increase in blood pressure — particularly in the systolic, or top blood pressure number. How much your blood pressure changes during exercise correlates with your fitness level and health status, as well as the type and intensity of exercise, and these changes may provide important clues to your health.
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How Do I Choose A Blood Pressure Monitor
The first step in measuring your blood pressure at home is getting a blood pressure monitorone that is accurate, fitted, validated, and works for your lifestyle. These are some things you should consider:
Get an arm cuff Devices come in many styles these days, including ones that attach to your arm and ones that attach at your wrist. Wrist cuffs can be attractive because you dont need to roll up your sleeves to use them, but they tend to give inaccurate measurements. Go with an arm cuff instead.
Choose the right cuff size The wrong cuff size can lead to inaccurate blood pressure readings. Larger cuffs are better for larger arms, and smaller cuffs are better for smaller arms. Make sure you get a size that fits you.
Make sure the device is right for your age Devices are specific to age. Some are meant for older people, and some are meant for children. As an aside, some are even meant for women who are pregnant. Make sure to get one thats right for you.
Make sure the device is validated It may be tempting to just buy the cheapest device on the internet, but you may end up with a blood pressure device that isnt approved or validated for taking an accurate measurement. Make sure yours is validated.
Newer blood pressure devices with Bluetooth integration allow you to conveniently track your blood pressure measurements through an app. This feature makes it easy to share your records with your doctor , but it usually comes at a price.
Why Do I Need A Blood Pressure Test
A blood pressure measurement is often included as part of a regular checkup. Adults 18 years and older should have their blood pressure measured at least once every two to five years. You should get tested every year if you have certain risk factors. You may be at higher risk if you:
- Are 40 years old or older
- Are overweight or have obesity
- Are Black/African American. Black/African Americans have a higher rate of high blood pressure than other racial and ethnic groups
You may need this test if you have symptoms of low blood pressure.
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Heart Attack And Heart Disease
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.
What Do Diastolic Values Actually Measure
Diastolic blood pressure values refer to the pressure exerted by your blood against the artery walls while the heart rests between beats. This value allows medical practitioners to make assessments regarding an individuals blood pressure according to the following key figures and readings:
- Lower than 80 normal diastolic blood pressure levels
- 80 89 stage 1 hypertension
- 90 or more stage 2 hypertension
- 120 or more hypertensive crisis
It is important to note that readings may show normal diastolic blood pressure levels, however, extreme systolic values shown during the same measurement could indicate elevated blood pressure. It is for this reason that doctors pay particular attention to the systolic values alongside the above-mentioned diastolic values.
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Why Systolic Pressure Is High
High systolic blood pressure can have many causes.As we age, our arteries stiffen, and over time this contributes to high blood pressure. The genes we inherit also can cause high blood pressure. Certain underlying conditions like thyroid disease, cortisol excess, and obesity can also cause high blood pressure.
Which Is More Important: Systolic Or Diastolic Blood Pressure
When it comes to measuring high blood pressure , many wonder whether the number on top is more important than the number on the bottom .
Typically, systolic blood pressure is given more attention as a risk factor for heart disease. However, both systolic and diastolic blood pressure are equally important in monitoring the health of your heart.
What the numbers measure
- Systolic blood pressure indicates the amount of pressure being exerted on the walls of your arteries when your heart beats.
- Diastolic blood pressure indicates the amount of pressure being exerted on the walls of your arteries in between heartbeats.
Blood pressure ranges
- Normal: Under 120/80 mm Hg
- Elevated: 120-129 systolic, under 80 mm Hg diastolic
- Hypertension Stage I: 130-139 systolic, 80-89 mm Hg diastolic
- Hypertension Stage II: Over 140/90 mm Hg
- Hypertensive crisis: Over 180/120 mmHg. This is a dangerously high reading and requires immediate medical attention.
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Measuring Blood Pressure With A Sphygmomanometer
A sphygmomanometer has three parts:
- a cuff that can be inflated with air,
- a pressure meter for measuring air pressure in the cuff, and
- a stethoscope for listening to the sound the blood makes as it flows through the brachial artery .
The scale of the pressure meter ranges from 0 to 300 mmHg. The pressure meter has a rubber pump on it for inflating the cuff and a button for letting the air out.
To measure blood pressure, the cuff is placed around the bare and stretched out upper arm, and inflated until no blood can flow through the brachial artery. Then the air is slowly let out of the cuff.
As soon as the air pressure in the cuff falls below the systolic blood pressure in the brachial artery, blood will start to flow through the arm once again. This creates a pounding sound when the arteries close again and the walls of the vessels hit each other after a heart beat. The sound can be heard by placing the stethoscope close to the elbow. Right when you start to hear this pounding for the first time you can read your systolic blood pressure off the pressure meter.
The pounding sound stops when the air pressure in the cuff falls below the diastolic blood pressure in the brachial artery. Then the blood vessels remain open. Right when the pounding stops, you can read the diastolic blood pressure off the pressure meter.
Systolic Blood Pressure Facts
- Both blood pressure numbers are important and either number, including systolic, can be used as a diagnosis for high blood pressure.
- For people aged 50 or older, doctors tend to monitor systolic blood pressure more closely.
- High systolic blood pressure is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
- Isolated systolic hypertension is the most common form of high blood pressure 1.
- Its more typical for the elderly to have high systolic blood pressure but younger people can get it too.
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What Is Considered A High Blood Pressure Reading
Blood pressure levels change throughout the day. Levels increase and decrease depending on physical activities, food intake, alcohol, smoking, and stress. A high blood pressure level is considered anything over 140 mmHg on the systolic reading scale and over 90 mmHg for the diastolic reading. Some healthcare professionals consider amounts over 130 mmHg a high systolic reading and values over 80 mmHg a high diastolic reading.
What If Just The First Blood Pressure Number Is High
For older people, often the first number is 130 or higher, but the second number is less than 80. This problem is called isolated systolic hypertension, which is due to age-related stiffening of the major arteries. It is the most common form of high blood pressure in older people and can lead to serious health problems in addition to shortness of breath during light physical activity, lightheadedness upon standing too fast, and falls. Isolated systolic hypertension is treated in the same way as regular high blood pressure but may require more than one type of blood pressure medication. If your doctor determines that your systolic pressure is above a normal level for your age, ask how you can lower it.
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How To Prevent High Blood Pressure
In order to help you prevent high blood pressure, you should make healthy lifestyle changes that are safe and beneficial whether you have gone to see your health practitioner or not. These changes are the basic activities that you can do to protect your heart health, and the following list will inform your lifestyle habits to minimize the risks associated with high blood pressure: