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Interpreting Blood Pressure Readings

Posted by Deanna Kidd on Thu, Dec 29, 2011

High blood pressure is one of the many factors that can make you more vulnerable to heart disease. If you have been told by your doctor that your blood pressure is higher than normal, it is essential that you monitor it regularly. You can get your blood pressure measured in a medical facility or at home, but you have to understand what your blood pressure numbers mean if you truly want to know the state of your health.

Blood Pressure ReadingsA blood pressure reading usually comes in the form of a ratio, such as 118/80 mmHg, which is read as 118 over 80 millimeters of mercury. The top number, which is “118” in this case, is referred to as the systolic number. It measures the amount of pressure that is exerted on the walls of your arteries when your heart is beating or contracting. The lower number, on the other hand, is called the diastolic number, and it measures the pressure in your arteries between heartbeats.

According to the American Heart Association, normal blood pressure has a systolic number of less than 120 and a diastolic number of less than 80. If you are pre-hypertensive, your systolic number will be between 120 and 139, or your diastolic number will be between 80 and 89. Stage one high blood pressure is represented by a systolic pressure of 140 to 159 or a diastolic pressure of 90 to 99. Those who have stage two high blood pressure will show a systolic pressure of 160 or higher, or a diastolic pressure of 100 or higher. If your systolic and diastolic numbers are higher than 180 and 110 respectively, it means that you are experiencing hypertensive crisis, and you have to seek emergency medical care.

Physicians usually pay more attention to systolic blood pressure when assessing heart disease risk for people who are over 50 years old. Systolic blood pressure will most likely increase with age, due to the build-up of plaque, increasing stiffness of arteries, and other factors.

Photo credit: dlbezaire

Topics: heart disease, heart health, american heart association, blood pressure

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