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What Does My Blood Pressure Reading Mean?

February 12, 2015

You’re probably already familiar with the health dangers high blood pressure can pose. In addition to causing serious damage to your heart and arteries that could lead to a cardiac episode, high blood pressure can also increase your risks of stroke, kidney damage and a myriad of other health problems

To take control of your high blood pressure, it’s important to understand what your readings really mean and how they affect your health long term. Let’s break it down.

What Exactly Is Blood Pressure Anyway?

Your blood pressure reading is actually a ratio of two pressure readings. The top number is your systolic reading, which measures the pressure in your arteries each time your heart beats. The bottom number is your diastolic reading, which measures the pressure in your arteries in between heartbeats.

What is a Healthy Blood Pressure?

A blood pressure reading that is considered “normal” has a systolic reading of less than 130 and a diastolic reading of less than 80. For example, your doctor would read this as “130 over 80.”

When Should I Be Concerned About My Blood Pressure?

Any reading higher than 130 over 80 could indicate a blood pressure problem, but a single high reading isn’t usually cause for alarm. Your blood pressure can be affected by stress or other unrelated factors, so your doctor will probably want to take several readings over time or ask you to monitor your blood pressure at home to see if there is a pattern of high readings. Check out this tutorial from the American Heart Association on how to monitor your blood pressure at home.

To give you an idea of the severity of readings, a blood pressure higher than 140 over 90 is considered Stage One and a reading higher than 160 over 100 is considered Stage Two. Anything higher than 180 over 110 is considered a hypertensive crisis and necessitates emergency care.

How Is High Blood Pressure Treated?

If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, don’t panic. Since there aren’t any symptoms of high blood pressure, not knowing you have it is the biggest concern. Once you’re aware of your diagnosis, you can begin taking steps to treat the problem. Your most important treatment plan will involve making changes to your lifestyle, including cleaning up your diet and adding in regular physical activity. Depending on how high your blood pressure is, your doctor may also choose to prescribe a blood pressure medication to go along with your lifestyle changes.

What Should I Do If My Blood Pressure Is Still High?

Talk to your doctor. As long as you’re maintaining a routine check up schedule, you’ll be able to stay on top of any blood pressure related health concerns.

If you have more questions about high blood pressure, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

Interested in more ways to reduce your heart risk? Watch this video with Certified Nurse Practitioner Anna Broz for more information.

7 Questions to Ask Your Doctor About High Blood Pressure