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Blood Pressure 101


The first step in preventing and controlling high blood pressure (HBP) is to learn the answers to a few questions:

What do the numbers in a blood pressure reading mean?
Blood pressure is typically recorded as two numbers, written as a ratio. Systolic — the top number, which is also the higher of the two numbers, measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats. Diastolic — the bottom number, which is also the lower of the two numbers, measures the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats.

What is HBP, and what happens in a person’s body that makes it dangerous?

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a widely misunderstood medical condition. The American Heart Association’s recommendation for healthy blood pressure is less than 120/80 mm Hg (less than 120 systolic AND less than 80 diastolic) for an adult age 20 or over.

When blood pressure is high (at 140/90 mm Hg or above) the tissue that makes up the walls of arteries gets stretched beyond its healthy limit and becomes damaged. The overstretching creates vascular weakness, vascular scarring, increased risk of blood clots, increase plaque buildup, tissue and organ damage, and increase workload on the circulatory system.

You may not feel that anything is wrong, but high blood pressure can permanently damage your heart, brain, eyes, and kidneys before you feel anything. High blood pressure can often lead to heart attack and heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, and other health consequences.

When does HBP require emergency medical treatment?
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.

How do I get on the path to managing my blood pressure?
There are eight main ways you can control your blood pressure, they are:

  • Eat a better diet, which may include reducing salt
  • Enjoy regular physical activity
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Manage stress
  • Avoid tobacco smoke
  • Comply with medication prescriptions
  • If you drink, limit alcohol
  • Understand hot tub safety

Good habits make a big difference! Healthy lifestyle choices are essential for the prevention and management of HBP.

For more information visit: http://www.heart.org.