Regulating your blood pressure can become a real virtue, unless you are older and unable to do so. In that case, this is pretty harmful and sometimes impossible. This was shown in a study that involved 2,000 seniors. The results were published online in the Archives of Internal Medicine and they actually surprised the world.
When it comes to high blood pressure, there is no place for mistakes – hypertension is a real life threat. It affects the function of your arteries, kidneys, and your body in general. This causes heart attack, heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, and other dangerous health issues. This is the reason why most doctors reach for aggressive therapies when it comes to treating hypertension.
Blood pressure is typically recorded as two numbers, written as a ratio like this:
The top number, which is also the higher of the two numbers, measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats (when the heart muscle contracts).
The bottom number, which is also the lower of the two numbers, measures the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats (when the heart muscle is resting between beats and refilling with blood).
How is high blood pressure diagnosed?
Your healthcare providers will want to get an accurate picture of your blood pressure and chart what happens over time. Starting at age 20, the American Heart Association recommends a blood pressure screening at your regular healthcare visit or once every 2 years, if your blood pressure is less than 120/80 mm Hg.
Your blood pressure rises with each heartbeat and falls when your heart relaxes between beats. While BP can change from minute to minute with changes in posture, exercise, stress or sleep, it should normally be less than 120/80 mm Hg (less than 120 systolic AND less than 80 diastolic) for an adult age 20 or over. About one in three U.S. adults has high blood pressure.
If your blood pressure reading is higher than normal, your doctor may take several readings over time and/or have you monitor your blood pressure at home before diagnosing you with high blood pressure.
Watch an animation of how a blood pressure test works.
A single high reading does not necessarily mean that you have high blood pressure. However, if readings stay at 140/90 mm Hg or above (systolic 140 or above OR diastolic 90 or above) over time, your doctor will likely want you to begin a treatment program. Such a program almost always includes lifestyle changes and often prescription medication for those with readings of 140/90 or higher.
If, while monitoring your blood pressure, you get a systolic reading of 180 mm Hg or higher OR a diastolic reading of 110 mm HG or higher, wait a couple of minutes and take it again. If the reading is still at or above that level, you should seek immediate emergency medical treatment for a hypertensive crisis. If you can't access the emergency medical services (EMS), have someone drive you to the hospital right away.
Even if your blood pressure is normal, you should consider making lifestyle modifications to prevent the development of HBP and improve your heart health.
Which number is more important, top (systolic) or bottom (diastolic)?
Typically more attention is given to the top number (the systolic blood pressure) as a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease for people over 50 years old. In most people, systolic blood pressure rises steadily with age due to increasing stiffness of large arteries, long-term build-up of plaque, and increased incidence of cardiac and vascular disease.
Watch this video to learn more about your blood pressure numbers.
Use the blood pressure chart below to see what your blood pressure means. The blood pressure chart is suitable for adults of any age. (The level for high blood pressure does not change with age.)
Blood pressure readings have two numbers, for example 140/90mmHg.
The top number is your systolic blood pressure. The bottom one is your diastolic blood pressure.
The blood pressure chart below shows ranges of high, low and healthy blood pressure readings.
Using this blood pressure chart: To work out what your blood pressure readings mean, just find your top number (systolic) on the left side of the blood pressure chart and read across, and your bottom number (diastolic) on the bottom of the blood pressure chart. Where the two meet is your blood pressure.
What blood pressure readings mean
As you can see from the blood pressure chart, only one of the numbers has to be higher or lower than it should be to count as either high blood pressure or low blood pressure:
- 90 over 60 (90/60) or less: You may have low blood pressure. More on low blood pressure.
- More than 90 over 60 (90/60) and less than 120 over 80 (120/80): Your blood pressure reading is ideal and healthy. Follow a healthy lifestyle to keep it at this level.
- More than 120 over 80 and less than 140 over 90 (120/80-140/90): You have a normal blood pressure reading but it is a little higher than it should be, and you should try to lower it. Make healthy changes to your lifestyle.
- 140 over 90 (140/90) or higher (over a number of weeks): You may have high blood pressure (hypertension). Change your lifestyle - see your doctor or nurse and take any medicines they may give you. More on high blood pressure
- if your top number is 140 or more - then you may have high blood pressure, regardless of your bottom number.
- if your bottom number is 90 or more - then you may have high blood pressure, regardless your top number.
- if your top number is 90 or less - then you may have low blood pressure, regardless of your bottom number.
- if your bottom number is 60 or less - then you may have low blood pressure, regardless of your top number.
-Blood pressure UK
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