Aug 23

How to Understand Your Blood Pressure Readings

If you’ve been to the doctor lately, you’ve certainly had your blood pressure monitored. Your doctor will state two numbers to inform you if your blood pressure is in a normal range or if it appears low/high.

While taking your doctor’s word for your blood pressure status is wise (they are trained professionals, after all), understanding what your blood pressure readings mean can give you a little more insight into your overall heart health.   

What Do The Numbers Mean?

Again, your doctor will tell you two numbers when monitoring your blood or you will read them yourself if you self-monitor. The top number represents your systolic pressure, the pressure in your arteries when your heart contracts, while the bottom represents your diastolic pressure, the blood pressure between heartbeats.

A normal or healthy range for these two numbers would be a systolic pressure reading between 120 and 90 mm Hg and a diastolic pressure reading between 60 and 80 mm Hg. When your reading is in the normal range, there is usually no cause for concern though you should continue healthy lifestyle habits to maintain your cardiovascular health. 

If your reading is higher than the normal range, there are varying levels of higher-than-normal blood pressure that can help you make the right decision for your health.   

Elevated Blood Pressure and Hypertension 

If your blood pressure numbers show above 120/80, you are above the normal blood pressure range and should take some precautions or at least make some heart-healthy lifestyle changes. 

A systolic pressure between 120 and 129 mm Hg with a diastolic pressure of less than 80 mm Hg is a sign of elevated blood pressure. While not technically “high blood pressure,” you are showing signs of moving towards high blood pressure and should change habits as you can, which could mean eliminating smoking or cutting down on high-sodium diets. There is no need for medication at this stage. 

The next level of high blood pressure is known as hypertension, and this appears in two stages. A reading of systolic pressure above 130 but below 140 mm Hg and a diastolic pressure reading between 80 and 89 mm Hg indicates entry into the first stage of hypertension. This reading should not be a cause for extreme alarm since a one-time, stage-one hypertension reading is not necessarily indicative of high blood pressure, a condition that can be identified by blood pressure readings over time. This is a signal, however, that lifestyle changes are highly recommended. 

If your systolic pressure reads at a number of 140 or higher (or a diastolic pressure of 90 or more), this indicates stage two hypertension. This is more serious and a doctor will recommend blood pressure medication to help you manage your blood pressure. As with any stage of higher-than-normal blood pressure, medication should be complemented with a switch to heart-healthy lifestyle changes. 

Dangerous Blood Pressure Levels

If your blood pressure is above 180/120 mm Hg, this is likely an emergency situation and you should seek medical assistance as soon as possible, regardless of other symptoms. A doctor will often take a second reading to confirm a “hypertensive crisis” a few minutes after the first reading. 

If you are suffering from symptoms of a stroke, chest pain, shortness of breath, headache, or visual changes, you should pursue emergency treatment. 

Proactively Monitor Your Heart Health 

When high blood pressure is a concern, knowing the status of your heart and overall cardiovascular health becomes even more important. To schedule a heart scan or Peripheral Artery Disease & Carotid Artery Disease Screening, reach out to us today at (918) 879-6161.

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