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What is Blood Pressure? 4 Facts to Know

March 21, 2017

blood pressure

We’ve all sat in the cold office, on a slab of crinkly paper with a pressure cuff around our arms. Yet many of us don’t know what the blood pressure numbers or process mean.

Let’s start with the basics.

What is Blood Pressure

Your blood pressure is the force of blood in your arteries when your heart beats divided by the force in your arteries when it fills with blood (relaxing).

The Numbers

Many people don’t know one number from the other when it comes to blood pressure. So when the doctor says your blood pressure is 120/80, what does that mean? For starters, your blood pressure is measured as a pair of numbers — systolic and diastolic. Your systolic reading is the upper number and your diastolic reading is the lower number. See the graphic below to understand where your numbers fall.blood pressure infographic.png

What the Bad Numbers Mean

If your blood pressure is consistently less than 90/60, it is considered low. Low blood pressure is also called hypotension.

It is important to consult your doctor if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Dizziness
  • Fainting
  • Nausea
  • Dehydration
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Depression

Depending on the cause, treatments for hypotension can include drinking more water, eating more salt, wearing compression socks or taking medications.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is identified as anything over 140/90. Signs of high blood pressure may exist — but there isn’t enough evidence to determine any particular symptoms. For this reason, high blood pressure can be a silent but deadly affliction.

Avoiding High and Low Blood Pressure

Measures can be taken to avoid lowering or raising your blood pressure.Precautions for avoiding high blood pressure include:

  • Eat a balanced, low sodium diet
  • Limit alcohol intake
  • Be active

Precautions for avoiding low blood pressure include:

  • Drink more water
  • Eat low-carb meals
  • When changing body positions, move slowly

It is always important to get annual physical exams, so be sure to schedule one with your physician if it’s that time of year or if you have any medical concerns. The next time you see that cuff and the doctor tells you the numbers, you’ll understand just what that means for you.

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