Know Your Blood Pressure Numbers


High blood pressure, or hypertension, occurs when the pressure or force of blood flowing through the blood vessels is consistently too high.

What do the numbers mean?

How do you know if you have high blood pressure? The only way to identify high blood pressure is to have it checked. This can be done at a physician’s office, a local community screening, or even with a personal home blood pressure machine.

Please know that only a medical professional can confirm a diagnosis of high blood pressure. If you believe you have high blood pressure, check with your primary care physician.

Understanding the numbers is the first step in controlling any blood-pressure issues. Blood pressures of less than 120/80 are considered within the NORMAL range. Anyone who falls in this category should stick with heart-healthy habits, such as regular exercise and a diet full of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

An ELEVATED blood pressure reading range falls between 120 to 129 systolic and less than 80 diastolic. Patients with elevated blood pressure are likely to develop high blood pressure unless steps are taken to improve their condition.

When the pressure ranges consistently reach 130 to 139 systolic or 80 to 89 diastolic, this is HYPERTENSION STAGE 1. At this stage, a doctor probably would prescribe lifestyle changes and might add blood pressure medication based on the patient’s risk for cardiovascular disease.

HYPERTENSION STAGE 2 is when the blood pressure ranges are 140/90 or higher. At this stage, both blood pressure medication and lifestyle changes would be the recommended treatments, regardless of the patient’s risk for cardiovascular disease.

For anyone who takes blood pressure and the reading exceeds 180/120, wait five minutes and then test it again. If it is still high, seek medical attention right away. The terminology for what one could be experiencing is a HYPERTENSIVE CRISIS. If the blood pressure reading is higher than 180/120 and accompanied by chest pain, shortness of breath, back pain, numbness/weakness, change in vision or difficulty speaking, see a doctor immediately. Do not wait.

Difference between the numbers

The first number is the SYSTOLIC number. It identifies how much pressure the blood is applying against the artery walls when the heartbeats.

The second number is DIASTOLIC number. The difference between the diastolic and the systolic numbers is that the diastolic identifies pressure when the heart is resting between beats.

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