Understanding Blood Pressure Readings

Blood pressure numbers – What do they mean? The only way to know if someone is having a high blood pressure (HBP, or also known as hypertension) is to have the blood pressure tested. Understanding your results of the blood pressure test is a key to controlling high blood pressure. Ranges of healthy and unhealthy […]

Blood pressure numbers – What do they mean?

The only way to know if someone is having a high blood pressure (HBP, or also known as hypertension) is to have the blood pressure tested. Understanding your results of the blood pressure test is a key to controlling high blood pressure.

Ranges of healthy and unhealthy blood pressure

As suggested by the American Heart Association what is considered to be normal should be learnt.

BLOOD PRESSURE CATEGORY SYSTOLIC mm Hg
(upper number)
DIASTOLIC mm Hg
(lower number)
NORMAL LESS THAN 120 and LESS THAN 80
ELEVATED 120 – 129 and LESS THAN 80
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
(HYPERTENSION) STAGE 1
130 – 139 or 80 – 89
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
(HYPERTENSION) STAGE 2
140 OR HIGHER or 90 OR HIGHER
HYPERTENSIVE CRISIS
(consult your doctor immediately)
HIGHER THAN 180 and/or HIGHER THAN 120

 

Note: A high blood pressure diagnosis must be confirmed and consulted with a medical professional. A doctor should also evaluate any low blood pressure readings which are unusual.

Categories of Blood Pressure

The American Heart Association has recognized five blood pressure ranges which are:

Normal

Blood pressure numbers are considered to be in a normal range if less than 120/80 mm Hg. If the results are falling into this category, heart-healthy habits should be followed like following a balanced diet and getting regular exercise.

Elevated

Elevated blood pressure is elevated when readings are consistently ranging from 120-129 systolic and less than 80 mm Hg diastolic. People with elevated blood pressure are likely in developing high blood pressure unless to control the condition necessary steps are taken

Hypertension Stage 1

Blood pressure is Hypertension Stage 1 when consistently ranging from 130-139 systolic or 80-89 mm Hg diastolic. At this stage of high blood pressure, lifestyle changes is likely to be prescribed by the doctors and may consider adding blood pressure medication based on the risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD), such as heart attack or stroke.

Hypertension Stage 2

Hypertension Stage 2 is when blood pressure is consistently ranging at 140/90 mm Hg or higher. At this stage of high blood pressure, a combination of blood pressure medications and lifestyle changes will be prescribed by the doctor.

Hypertensive crisis

Medical attention is required at this stage of high blood pressure. If the blood pressure readings exceeds suddenly to 180/120 mm Hg, wait for five minutes and then again test the blood pressure. If the readings are still unusually high, the doctor should be contacted immediately. A hypertensive crisis could be experienced.

If the blood pressure is ranging higher than 180/120 mm Hg and there are signs of possible organ damage being experienced such as chest pain, shortness of breath, back pain, numbness/weakness, change in vision or difficulty speaking, do not wait to see if the pressure is coming down on its own. Call 911.

The blood pressure numbers and their meaning

Two numbers are recorded as blood pressure:

  •  The first number i.e. systolic blood pressure indicates how much pressure the blood is exerting against the artery walls when the heart beats.
  •  The second number i.e. diastolic blood pressure indicates how much pressure the blood is exerting against the artery walls while the heart is resting between heart beats.

Importance of numbers

Usually, more attention is to be given to systolic blood pressure (the first number) as for people over the age of 50 it is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. In most people, systolic blood pressure rises with age steadily due to the stiffness increased of large arteries, long-term buildup of plaque and an increased incidence of cardiac and vascular disease.

However, either of the two i.e. an elevated systolic or an elevated diastolic blood pressure reading may be used to make a diagnosis of having a high blood pressure. According to recent researches, people aged from 40 to 89 the risk of death from ischemic heart disease and stroke is doubled with every 20 mm Hg systolic or 10 mm Hg diastolic is increased

Why blood pressure is measured in mm Hg

Millimeters of mercury is the abbreviation of mm Hg. In the first accurate pressure gauges mercury was used and is still used in medicine today as the standard unit of measurement for pressure.

Checking blood pressure versus taking pulse

While both are used as indications of health, blood pressure and heart rate (pulse) are two different measurements. The difference between blood pressure and heart should be learned more

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