What Do The Numbers On Your Blood Pressure Reading Mean
When one of our doctors measures your blood pressure, he or she will give you two numbers. One is the systolic number . This is the number that is stated first. The second number is the diastolic number. For example, if your doctor says your blood pressure is 120 over 80, the first number, 120, is the systolic number, and the second number of your blood pressure reading is the diastolic number . An easy way to remember it is that both diastolic and down begin with d.
- The systolic blood pressure shows how much pressure your blood pushes against your arteries during a heartbeat.
- The diastolic number measures the pressure when the heart is at rest.
While both numbers are very important, physicians examine the top number as a major risk factor, and maydepending upon the individual situationgive more attention to it. However, if either the upper or lower number is elevated, your internist can make a diagnosis of high blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association.
Typically, more attention is given to systolic blood pressure as a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease for people over 50. In most people, systolic blood pressure rises steadily with age due to the increasing stiffness of large arteries, long-term build-up of plaque and an increased incidence of cardiac and vascular disease.
What Is The Most Important Blood Pressure Number
In the past, it was commonly thought that the diastolic pressure or bottom number was the most important blood pressure number. This mistaken idea dates back to one of the early studies of the treatment of blood pressure, where only patients with diastolic blood pressure over 90 mm were allowed into the study.
What Can I Expect If I Have This Condition
Since high blood pressure doesnt cause many symptoms at first, you probably wont feel any different with a high blood pressure diagnosis. But its important to follow your providers instructions to bring your blood pressure down so it doesnt cause serious illnesses later in life.
How long does high blood pressure last?
If you have primary high blood pressure, youll need to control it for the rest of your life.
If you have secondary high blood pressure, your blood pressure will most likely come down after you receive treatment for the medical problem that caused it. If a medication caused your high blood pressure, switching to a different medicine may lower your blood pressure.
What is the outlook for high blood pressure?
You can get seriously ill if you dont treat your high blood pressure. However, if you take the medicines your provider ordered, you can control your blood pressure. Exercising and eating healthy foods also helps lower your blood pressure.
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Variations In Blood Pressure
Your blood pressure changes to meet your bodys needs. If a reading is high, your doctor may measure your blood pressure again on several separate occasions to confirm the level.
Your doctor may also recommend that you measure your blood pressure at home or have a 24-hour recording with a monitoring device.
What Is A Good Blood Pressure
Its important to emphasize that a good blood pressure reading depends on your own individual health. Your provider will be able to tell you whats healthy and safe given your personal health circumstances.
Nonetheless, below are guidelines from the American Heart Association for people in general. Remember: Your blood can be temporarily high or low at times . This chart applies to how your blood pressure is normally, which is why you may want to take an average of several readings before seeing where you fall.
|Blood pressure category|
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Top Blood Pressure Number Is Key In Seniors
Even When Lower Number Normal, Don’t Ignore Top Number, Say Researchers
Aug. 31, 2004 — People aged 60 and older commonly face a unique blood pressure problem. And new research shows that this is something that shouldn’t be ignored.
Blood pressure is noted by two numbers. The upper number, systolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart pumps blood throughout the body the lower number, diastolic blood pressure, is the pressure in the arteries when the heart is relaxing .
When systolic blood pressure rises above 160 in people aged 60 and older, it’s time to consider treatment — even if the lower number is normal, less than 90. New research on systolic high blood pressure, which is much more common as we age, is published in The Journal of the American Medical Association.
Sarwat Chaudhry, MD, of the West Haven Veterans Affairs Medical Center in West Haven, Conn., and colleagues conducted the research. Chaudhry’s team reviewed more than 1,000 related studies done between 1996 and 2004, focusing on 36 articles in particular.
Chaudhry and colleagues found “strong evidence” to support treating systolic high blood pressure in people aged 60 and older. Doing so can decrease the likelihood of developing heart disease or having a stroke.
High systolic blood pressure in people 60 and over is a much more important heart disease risk factor than high diastolic blood pressure, write the researchers.
What Causes High Blood Pressure
The cause of high blood pressure, or hypertension, is often unknown. It develops over time and often happens as a result of unhealthy lifestyle choices, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention .
Occasionally, some people have hypertension caused by an underlying condition, such as kidney disease, adrenal gland tumors or thyroid disorders, says Dr. Wong. Other conditions like pregnancy, diabetes and obesity can also increase your risk.
Some people are susceptible to high blood pressure from certain medications, such as birth control pills, some decongestants and even some over-the-counter pain relievers, says Wong. Illicit drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamines may also raise blood pressure.
High blood pressure is extremely common. A 2017 to 2018 survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics found 45.5% of U.S. adults have hypertensionOstchega Y, et al. Hypertension prevalence among adults aged 18 and over: United States, 2017-2018. National Center for Health Statistics. Accessed 7/16/2021. .
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Heart Rate And Exercise
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.
When The Higher Blood Pressure Number Is Important
If you have a higher than normal systolic blood pressure number combined with a lower diastolic number you have a common type of high blood pressure that doctors refer to as isolated systolic hypertension 30919-6/pdf” rel=”nofollow”> resource). Its the most common form of high blood pressure in people older than age 65, but its possible for younger people to have it also.
Isolated Systolic Hypertension Can Cause The Following Serious Health Issues:
- Heart disease
- Chronic kidney disease
In people ages 50 and over, most studies show a greater risk of stroke and heart disease related to the higher number compared with an elevated lower number. This is why doctors tend to monitor the top number more closely. This is so because the higher number rises steadily with age due to the following:
- Increasing stiffness of large arteries
- Long-term buildup of plaque
- An increased incidence of cardiac and vascular disease
For people of all ages, a higher upper blood pressure number can also be caused by an overactive thyroid or diabetes.
According to recent studies, for people aged from 40 to 89, for every 20 mm Hg increase in systolic blood pressure the risk of death from ischemic heart disease and stroke doubles . Ischemic heart disease, also called coronary heart disease, is caused when the narrowed arteries in the heart receive less blood and oxygen which can lead to a heart attack.
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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?
Diastolic Blood Pressure In The 50s
Is 50 a normal diastolic number? A diastolic number of 50 is not normal diastolic blood pressure. It is considered low blood pressure. Any diastolic blood pressure number under 60 mmHg is considered low blood pressure.
Low diastolic blood pressure can occur with a low systolic or with a normal systolic pressure. When diastolic is low but systolic isnt, its called isolated diastolic blood pressure. This can be dangerous for your heart 7.
Unlike the rest of the body, your heart receives blood during diastolic, when its not beating. This can lead to symptoms of a weakening heart.
The American Heart Association or the American College of Cardiology hasnt determined a set number range for low blood pressure. Most experts consider low diastolic pressure under 60 mmHg 8.
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What Is High Blood Pressure Anyway
Let’s first begin with how the heart functions. With each beat, the heart pumps oxygen-rich blood to the rest of your body in an ongoing, life-sustaining cycle. The forceor pressureof that contraction is what keeps your blood flowing through your arteries and veins.
There are two types of pressure that get generated:
Systolic, which is the pressure when your heart beats
Diastolic, which is your blood pressure between beats
A healthy blood-pressure reading is written out like this: 120/80 mmHg , with the systolic number on top and the diastolic number below. Spoken out loud, youll hear: 120 over 80. Its only when your numbers spike higher than 129 and tick upward of 80 , that youre venturing into hypertensiona.k.a. high blood pressure territory.
Your blood pressure goes up when youre active. It goes down when you chill out. Its highest in the morning when you wake up and lowest when you sleep. These types of fluctuations occur normally. However, when its continually above normal, you have a problem.
Why? Because HBP can do A LOT of damage. It strains and stiffens your blood vessels, which can make your heart work harder than it shouldand that can lead to a range of heart disorders, some of them quite serious.
Managing Blood Pressure Naturally
By and large, hypertension is a lifestyle disease. There are some risk factors you cant control, like genetics, age, and race . But for the most part, blood pressure is highly influenced , exercise, sleep, stress, weight/obesity, and unhealthy habits like excessive drinking and smoking. Making important changes to these lifestyle factors can have a major impact on your blood pressure.
Of course, if your blood pressure is extremely high, medication may be your best course of action. You and your doctor can work together to come up with an appropriate treatment plan.
But if you fall in the mild-to-moderate range, lifestyle changes and certain blood-pressure supportive supplements can make a real difference.
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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.
Stroke And Brain Problems
High blood pressure can cause the arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the brain to burst or be blocked, causing a stroke. Brain cells die during a stroke because they do not get enough oxygen. Stroke can cause serious disabilities in speech, movement, and other basic activities. A stroke can also kill you.
Having high blood pressure, especially in midlife, is linked to having poorer cognitive function and dementia later in life. Learn more about the link between high blood pressure and dementia from the National Institutes of Healths Mind Your Risks®external icon campaign.
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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.
What Can I Do To Prevent Or Manage High Blood Pressure
Many people with high blood pressure can lower their blood pressure into a healthy range or keep their numbers in a healthy range by making lifestyle changes. Talk with your health care team about
- Getting at least 150 minutes of physical activity each week
- Not smoking
- Managing stress
In addition to making positive lifestyle changes, some people with high blood pressure need to take medicine to manage their blood pressure. Learn more about medicines for high blood pressure.
Talk with your health care team right away if you think you have high blood pressure or if youve been told you have high blood pressure but do not have it under control.
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How Can Internists In Raleigh Help With High Blood Pressure
At Raleigh Medical Group we specialize in treating chronic diseases like high blood pressure, and internists are in a unique position to help you. Internists are doctors who specialize in internal medicine. This specialty looks at the overall functioning of your body and how a problem in one area can affect your overall health. Our internists are also experts at treating patients who have multiple chronic diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, allergies and high cholesterol.
Are you interested in more information on high blood pressure? Check out our previous blog post on Five Complications of High Blood Pressure.
What Is Diastolic Blood Pressure
The heart rests between beats so it can refill with blood. Doctors call this pause between beats âdiastole.â Your diastolic blood pressure is the measurement during this pause before the next heartbeat.
A normal diastolic blood pressure during quiet rest is 80 mmHg or a little below. If you have high blood pressure, the diastolic number is often higher even during quiet rest.
Low diastolic pressure may be seen with dehydration or with severe bleeding. It also may happen if the arteries relax and widen.
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What Do Blood Pressure Readings Mean
Blood pressure is measure in millimeters of mercury and recorded as two numbers, systolic and diastolic. Systolic is the top number , which measure the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats, so when its muscles contract. Diastolic the bottom number , which measures the pressure in the arteries between heart beats, so when the muscles relax and refill with blood.
The blood pressure chart reflects the categories defined by the American Heart Association. A normal blood pressure is less than 120/80. If your blood pressure numbers are between 120/80 and 139/89, you have pre-hypertension, which means that you are likely to develop high blood pressure. If your blood pressure numbers are 140/90 or above, you have high blood pressure. For instance, if your systolic blood pressure is between 140 and 159, and your diastolic blood pressure is between 90 and 99, you have Stage 1 Hypertension. You have Stage 2 Hypertension if your systolic blood pressure is over 160 and you diastolic blood pressure is over 100. If your numbers are higher than that, you are in hypertensive crisis and need emergency care.
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What Causes High Blood Pressure In The First Place
If you have HBP, youre hardly alone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , nearly half of all adults in the U.S. have hypertension or take a medication to manage it. Only one-quarter of them have it under control.
Your doctor most likely wont be able to pinpoint the reason why you have HBP. Thats because as many as 95% of HBP cases have no known cause. If you fall into this vast category, you have whats known as primary hypertension. Among the much, much smaller number of people who do have a known cause, their HBP is known as secondary high blood pressure because its caused by an underlying, or already present, health condition.
These underlying secondary causes include:
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Preventing Low Blood Pressure
To help prevent low blood pressure, drink plenty of fluids, preferably water, to prevent dehydration. Stand up slowly from a sitting position to help prevent orthostatic hypotension.
Also, notify your doctor right away if you feel a medication is causing your blood pressure to drop. There may be another medication option that will have less impact on your blood pressure numbers.
In addition, if youve been diagnosed with any medical conditions known to be linked with low blood pressure, talk to your doctor. Discuss which symptoms you should look out for and how to best monitor your condition.