When you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, it’s important to learn how to control blood pressure safely and effectively. Every person is different, so what may work for one may not work for you.
How you work to control blood pressure may depend on how high your blood pressure actually is. If your blood pressure is very high, your doctor may want you to begin medication immediately.
Below is a comprehensive guide to blood pressure.
High Blood Pressure Facts And Figures
- What Is Blood Pressure
- What Is Systolic Blood Pressure?
- What Is Diastolic Blood Pressure?
- What Is Normal Blood Pressure?
- What Is High Blood Pressure?
- Blood Pressure Averages
- Blood Pressure Ranges
- Blood Pressure By Age
- Arterial Blood Pressure
- Blood Pressure and Pulse
- What Is the Cause of High Blood Pressure?
- Dangerous Blood Pressure
What Is Blood Pressure
If you’ve been told you need to improve it, you may be wondering what is blood pressure? This is a number that you get checked every time you go to the doctor, but you may not know what it really is.
Your blood pressure is composed of two different numbers. It is written with one number over the other such as 120/80. Each of these numbers how much pressure your blood is placing on the walls of your blood vessels at two different times.
The higher number is called systolic pressure. This is the amount of pressure your blood places when your heart is actually contracting. The lower number is called diastolic pressure and it’s the measurement of when your heart is between beats.
All of that is very interesting, but you may be trying to figure out why it’s so important to know about this pressure. Blood pressure, though, is one of the most critical measurements you or your doctor can take.
When blood pressure is normal, it’s a good sign that your heart is able to do its job properly and that your blood vessels aren’t under too much stress. There are other things that could cause problems, but blood pressure is one of the most significant factors in heart health.
If your blood pressure is too low, your heart has to work extra hard to pump the blood throughout your body. Often you’ll feel sluggish and tired because you’re not getting all of the oxygen and nutrients you need.
When blood pressure is too high, your heart also has to work harder to pump blood throughout the body. Your blood vessels are also being pushed very hard as blood circulates and that can cause damage to their walls.
Eventually you can get what’s known as atherosclerosis, or hardened arteries. This makes your arteries weaker because they can’t stretch and contract as blood pumps. Cholesterol can get deposited more easily into hardened arteries and cause blockages.
All of this sets you up to have a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. It can also lead to kidney failure, loss of eyesight, and chest pain. If you have diabetes, this risk becomes even greater and you could be in real trouble.
High blood pressure can also make you feel light headed and make you feel increased stress. But the good news is that understanding what blood pressure is can help you to take control of it and improve your health significantly.
What Is Systolic Blood Pressure?
When it comes to blood pressure, you may wonder what is systolic blood pressure. There are actually two kinds of blood pressure – diastolic and systolic. These are both part of your overall blood pressure, but they measure it at different times.
When you see a blood pressure reading, you normally see two numbers. For example: 120/80. The number on the bottom is called diastolic pressure. This is the pressure of your blood pushing against your blood vessels when your heart is between beats.
The top number, in this case 120, is the systolic pressure. This is the higher pressure when your heart is actually contracting. These numbers are measured in mmHg or millimeters of mercury. Mercury is used in the machine that you use to take the blood pressure.
Systolic pressure tends to vary more than diastolic pressure. For example, when you exercise or get nervous, it’s not uncommon for it to go up 20-40 mmHg, but the diastolic pressure may only go up 10 mmHg.
Usually when someone has high blood pressure both their systolic and diastolic pressures are high. But occasionally a person may have only high systolic pressure over 140 and this is called isolated systolic hypertension.
The trouble with this type of hypertension is that when it’s treated with medications, it can often cause the diastolic number to go too low. So you may not be able to have traditional medical treatment for this type of blood pressure and that can lead to heart disease.
Just as any hypertension can cause bad health, isolated systolic hypertension can lead to heart disease, stroke, dementia, and kidney disease. These are very serious and life threatening conditions.
You’ll be even more at risk for these if you have problems such as diabetes, are a smoker, or are overweight or obese. It’s important if you’ve been diagnosed with this type of high blood pressure that you pay careful attention to lifestyle factors.
Making sure you get as close to your ideal weight as possible, stopping tobacco use, lowering the sodium in your diet, and managing stress can all help you to lower blood pressure without medications.
You may also want to look into dietary supplements such as Coenzyme Q10. However, this supplement can also lower diastolic pressure as much as 10mmHg, so it’s important to talk with your doctor before using it.
Understanding what is systolic blood pressure can help you to make sense of your health information and be able to discuss treatment with your doctor.
What Is Diastolic Blood Pressure?
Knowing what is diastolic blood pressure can help you to interpret your blood pressure readings appropriately. There are two kinds of blood pressure – diastolic and systolic. When you see a blood pressure measurement, you need to be able to interpret it.
A normal blood pressure is 120/80. The number is written as systolic pressure/diastolic pressure. The systolic pressure is your highest pressure when your heart is in the middle of a contraction. Your diastolic pressure is your lowest pressure when your heart is between beats.
Your diastolic pressure is actually the one that’s most important for physicians looking at blood pressure. If it’s too high, your systolic pressure will almost always be too high as well. Above 90 and you may be considered to have hypertension.
Often when people exercise or are under sudden stress, their systolic pressure rises but the diastolic pressure stays about the same. This is normal and is rarely cause for concern if it happens only at isolated times.
But when diastolic pressure is high, this is generally a sign that you have high blood pressure all the time. It’s important to continue to monitor your blood pressure regularly by taking it and recording it. Then you can share that information with your healthcare provider.
If you do have high blood pressure, you may be able to work on changing some lifestyle choices before going on medication. While lifestyle changes don’t always help you to lower blood pressure, they can.
For example, losing weight and eating a heart healthy diet might help diastolic pressure to go down. Stress management and exercise can also help you to get back to normal with your blood pressure.
However, if your blood pressure is very high you may need to begin medication. High blood pressure is the leading cause of heart disease and stroke, so you don’t want to wait if your blood pressure is very high.
Your doctor will probably have you start medication and then begin working on your lifestyle as well. When you begin any diet or exercise program, it’s important to talk with your doctor if you have high blood pressure. You don’t want to increase your risk of heart disease.
Having high blood pressure can be scary, but the best way to alleviate fears is to get educated and take control of your own health. Understanding what is diastolic pressure is a great first step toward understanding your blood pressure and learning how to control it.
What Is Normal Blood Pressure?
If you’ve had your blood pressure measured recently, it helps to know what is normal blood pressure. When your heart beats, it contracts and relaxes. When it contracts the blood in your arteries pushes hard against the walls of the blood vessels.
When your heart is between beats, there’s still pressure, but that pressure isn’t as high. Blood pressure is measured using a special cuff called a sphygmomanometer. This simple machine measures the pressure in your blood vessels in millimeters of mercury.
Textbook blood pressure is normally 120/80. The top number is your systolic pressure when the heart contracts. The bottom number is the diastolic pressure when the heart is between beats. While this is considered “normal” any pressure above 90/60 but below 120/80 is considered normal also.
When you’re exerting yourself physically or you’re under extreme stress, even people with normal blood pressure may get a high reading. In this case the bottom number usually stays pretty near 80, but the top number may go up.
This is normal and not anything to worry about. The real problem comes with having abnormal blood pressure readings over and over again when you’re at rest. If you’re concerned about your blood pressure, you should talk with your doctor.
When your blood pressure is normal, it’s a good sign that your heart is pretty healthy. The most common type of heart disease is hypertension, the scientific word for high blood pressure. If you’re in the normal range your heart is probably not under too much stress.
Even if your blood pressure is normal, it’s important to participate in activities that help you to keep it normal. For example, you can participate in 30-60 minutes of daily physical activity. This can help you to keep your heart healthy and strong throughout your life.
It’s also a good idea to keep your weight as close to ideal as possible for you. Excess weight can put more pressure on the heart to do its job. Regulating your weight can help you to control blood pressure.
Stress can play a role in blood pressure as well. Do what you can with time management to keep stress low. When stress does come knocking on your door, consider meditation and relaxation exercises to help you stay calm, cool, and collected.
Many people who have good blood pressure think they’re off the hook when it comes to taking care of their heart. But you should also pay attention to your heart rate, cholesterol, and other lifestyle factors. Understanding what is normal blood pressure can help you to keep it that way.
What Is High Blood Pressure?
If you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure, you’re probably asking, “What is high blood pressure?” This can be a confusing time and you may feel very worried about your diagnosis. After all, high blood pressure is one of the greatest risk factors for heart attacks and stroke.
If you have high blood pressure, it means that the blood in your blood vessels is pushing too hard on the walls of the blood vessels. Eventually this can lead to hardened arteries and even a heart attack or stroke.
It’s important not to ignore this symptom. Your body is telling you that something is wrong. For most people high blood pressure means it’s time to make some lifestyle changes. For example, you’ll need to watch your intake of sodium.
You may also need to lose weight to take some pressure off of your heart. In addition, exercise can help you to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, which will improve your heart health immensely.
How do you know if your blood pressure is high? Normal, healthy blood pressure is 120/80 or lower. Sometimes your blood pressure might be higher if you’ve been exerting yourself physically or if you’re in a stressful situation.
Getting one high measurement of blood pressure doesn’t mean you have high blood pressure. But if you take repeated readings when you’re at rest that are higher than 120/80, you may have a problem.
It’s always best to talk to your doctor about the options of you’re concerned that your blood pressure is too high. If your blood pressure is only slightly high, your doctor may want to work with you on lifestyle changes that can help you lower it.
If it’s very high, you may need to take medications to lower your blood pressure so that you can lower your risk for heart disease and stroke. That doesn’t give you a free pass when it comes to lifestyle – but it does give you some relief while you work on making those changes.
Some people have high blood pressure that’s high due to genetics and there isn’t much you can do about it. But for most people changing some lifestyle factors will help – at least it will help to a degree.
If you’ve taken your own blood pressure and noticed that it seems on the high side, it’s a good idea to make an appointment to talk with your doctor about what your blood pressure means for you. Understanding what is high blood pressure can help you to take control of your health.
Blood Pressure Averages
While getting a high blood pressure reading can be upsetting, blood pressure averages are more important than one reading alone.
Your blood pressure can vary greatly depending on what you’re doing and how you’re feeling.
If you have a high blood pressure reading, you should start paying more attention to your numbers but it doesn’t necessarily mean you have hypertension.
Let’s take a look at a few things that can cause blood pressure to spike abnormally.
If you take your blood pressure when you’re very stressed or anxious you might get a high reading. That doesn’t mean that your blood pressure is always high – just that your body is reacting to a stressful situation.
Taking your blood pressure during or after exercise can also provide you with a high reading. That’s because your body has a greater demand for oxygen and your heart and blood vessels have to work hard to meet it.
Smoking can also cause you to get a higher reading. If you take your blood pressure just after consuming a cigarette it’s likely to spike. However, it’s important to note that smoking is a risk factor for high blood pressure.
If you’re a smoker, it’s best to wait at least an hour before taking your blood pressure to get an accurate reading. This way you can get a more accurate reading and know that it’s not falsely inflated.
Finally, your posture can have an effect on your blood pressure reading. If you’re not sitting up straight or the cuff is in the wrong position, your reading won’t be accurate.
Getting one bad reading shouldn’t be cause for alarm, but it should indicate it’s time to look at your blood pressure averages.
To do this, you’ll need to monitor your blood pressure several times over several days.
Make sure to sit up straight and take this measurement when you’re calm and have been resting for a few minutes.
Take several readings and record them to keep track. Over time you’ll begin to see a pattern. If your blood pressure is normal most of the time, you don’t have anything to worry about. It’s normal for it to spike once in a while.
But if you have many high blood pressure readings over time, it’s time to speak with your healthcare provider to determine if you have hypertension and how serious the problem is for you.
It’s important to get an accurate picture of your blood pressure. While one blood pressure reading that’s high isn’t a big deal, high blood pressure averages can indicate that you have a more serious problem.
Blood Pressure Ranges
When it comes to your heart health, blood pressure ranges can determine how you intervene in high blood pressure or if you even need to intervene. Let’s take a look at the guidelines for hypertension and healthy blood pressure.
Normal, textbook blood pressure is considered 120/80. You may have blood pressure at or near this measurement and be considered to have healthy blood pressure. Below this may be okay, but if it gets too low there can be dangers.
However, low blood pressure is less of a concern for the overall population because more people suffer from hypertension and is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. But there are different levels of high blood pressure.
If your blood pressure is up to 139/89 you have what’s known as prehypertension. You don’t have high blood pressure yet, but if you let it go it could become too high. It’s important to watch your lifestyle and adopt healthy habits that will help you to keep your heart strong.
From 140/90 to 159/99 is considered stage 1 hypertension. At this point your doctor will usually have you work on changing your lifestyle and then recheck in a few months. If, after a few months of working on lifestyle factors, it doesn’t go down you may need to consider medication.
If your blood pressure is over 160/100, you may need to take more drastic measures. This could require one or more medications in order to lower the pressure. Your doctor will still talk with you about lifestyle changes, though, to make sure you get all the benefits you can.
These blood pressure ranges are pretty standard, but you should talk to your doctor about your specific blood pressure and what it means. You may just need to change some habits or you may need to take a prescription.
If you go on blood pressure medication, it’s still possible that you could lose weight and eat a low sodium diet and eventually get off of medication or at least reduce your dependence on it. You’ll need to keep monitoring your blood pressure on your own and working with your doctor to develop a plan to improve your heart health.
Having one episode of high blood pressure doesn’t mean that you need to get treated for it. If you have a high reading once, keep monitoring it and see if it continues to stay high or if it was just a fluke.
Sometimes your blood pressure can go up when you’re nervous or stressed, but return to normal the rest of the time. Knowing about blood pressure ranges and monitoring your own pressures will help you to be an active participant in your own healthcare.
Blood Pressure By Age
When you think about your health, it seems natural that there’s a range of change in blood pressure by age. And, in fact, what’s considered normal at an older age might be unhealthy for someone younger.
As you age, your blood pressure will naturally increase. As a teenager, the highest normal blood pressure is 120/80. That’s often considered “textbook” blood pressure and what we all strive to have.
However, as you get older it’s normal for your blood pressure to be a little higher.
By the time you hit age 30, normal blood pressure can be higher.
The maximum blood pressure you can have and still be considered normal is 134/85. And when you reach 40, the highest normal blood pressure is 137/87.
When you reach 50, your blood pressure can be as high as 142/89 and still not be considered high blood pressure. And above age 60, it can be even higher without a diagnosis of hypertension with a maximum of 147/91.
These ranges mean that it’s natural and normal for blood pressure by age to increase a small amount.
As you can see, though, it’s not a huge increase each year. As you get older you need to pay more attention to your blood pressure and do your best to keep it in the normal range for your age.
For women, it’s particularly important to monitor blood pressure around the time of menopause.
This is a time when your hormones change and your risk for heart disease increases significantly. Estrogen tends to protect women’s heart from risks of disease, but when your levels of estrogen decline your risk goes up.
Your doctor will take your blood pressure as you attend appointments, but you should also monitor it on your own.
You can find blood pressure monitors in many pharmacies. However, you may want to have a monitor at home.
This is a small investment that can really help you to take control of your own health information. You’ll be able to see if your blood pressure is in the normal range or if there are patterns of high blood pressure on a regular basis.
Your blood pressure can be affected by other factors in addition to age.
For example, smokers and people who take in a lot of caffeine tend to be at risk for high blood pressure.
If you’re overweight, you may also have a higher risk for blood pressure.
Diabetes and hypertension also go hand in hand.
Knowing the appropriate blood pressure for your age can help you to understand if your own blood pressure is normal or if you need to discuss your blood pressure with your doctor.
Arterial Blood Pressure
When you’re trying to understand arterial blood pressure, it helps to know some basics about your body.
You have a large network of blood vessels in your body. Some lead to the heart from your various organs and tissues. These are called veins.
Other blood vessels come away from your heart and take blood rich with oxygen to the rest of your body. These are called arteries.
Arteries have higher blood pressure than veins because they come directly from the ventricles of the heart to the aorta – the largest artery in the body.
When your arterial blood pressure is too low, blood can’t get easily from the heart to the other organs of the body. This puts strain on the heart as it has to pump faster and harder in order to deliver oxygen to the body.
If your arterial blood pressure is too high, you’re at risk for heart disease. The walls of the arteries can become damaged when you have high pressure on their walls for an extended period of time.
This leads to a disease called atherosclerosis – hardened arteries. Hardened arteries don’t stretch like elastic when your heart pumps.
That leaves you more vulnerable to problems such as aneurysms, heart attacks, and stroke.
Hardened arteries also begin to collect cholesterol from the bloodstream. Over time this can cause a narrowing or blockage of your arteries. Eventually this can cause a heart attack, but even before that it can cause chest pain and other heart disease.
Your arterial blood pressure can be affected by many factors. It can be affected by the amount of blood you have in your body, the amount of blood your heart pumps at every beat, and how fast your heart is pumping.
In order to make sure you have healthy arterial blood pressure, it’s important to check it regularly. Your doctor will check your blood pressure for you each time you go for an appointment. However, this is probably not enough.
You should make it a habit to check your blood pressure every month or so. Many pharmacies have blood pressure monitors you can use.
If that’s not convenient you may consider purchasing your own blood pressure monitor for use at home.
You may think that high blood pressure isn’t such a big deal, but you’d be wrong.
Why is blood pressure so important?
High arterial blood pressure is the number one risk factor for heart disease and stroke – so don’t ignore this extremely important health statistic.
Blood Pressure and Pulse
Many people are confused about how blood pressure and pulse are related. These are actually two different numbers that measure completely different things.
It helps to understand the difference when you’re ready to take care of your health.
Blood pressure is the measurement of blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels. This is measured with an instrument called a sphygmomanometer. The actual units of measurement are millimeters of mercury or mmHg.
Normal healthy blood pressure measures about 120/80 mmHg. This tells you that you have enough pressure for blood to move through smoothly, but it’s not so high that it can lead to heart disease.
Your pulse rate is the number of times your heart beats in a minute.
Rather than listening to your heart directly, you can feel your pulse rate in several parts of the body. The two most common places are the carotid pulse and the radial pulse.
The carotid pulse is taken in the neck. This is where your carotid artery is. Blood pressure is high in this particular blood vessel and it’s close to the skin, so you can feel it with your fingers. You can also use the radial pulse found in the wrist.
Your pulse is measured in beats per minute or bpm. There’s a wide range of what can be considered normal. It can be anywhere from 60-90 bpm.
Now the question is, how are these two numbers related?
The answer is that blood pressure and pulse may not be related.
There’s no correlation between these two numbers that’s the same for everyone. You can have a normal heart rate and high or low blood pressure and you can have a high heart rate and normal blood pressure.
When you participate in physical activity, your heart rate rises much faster than your blood pressure rate. Both numbers give you information about the health of your heart, but they don’t relate to each other in any specific way.
You want to work to keep your blood pressure normal which can be done through diet, exercise, supplements, and medications.
You also want to keep your heart rate normal and the best way to do that is typically through exercise.
While these two numbers aren’t related, they’re both important.
To have overall good heart health you need to pay attention to both blood pressure and pulse – just not necessarily with how they interact together.
What Is the Cause of High Blood Pressure?
If you’ve been diagnosed with it, you’re probably wondering what is the cause of high blood pressure? There’s no one cause for this disorder. There are several factors that can lead to it and you’ll need to evaluate which ones apply to you.
First, if you’re overweight or obese this can lead to the development of high blood pressure. It’s important to get as close to your ideal weight as possible. When you have more weight to carry around, your body is put under extra stress.
Alcohol use can also contribute to high blood pressure. While having a drink or two will not cause problems, but more than that can lead to problems. It’s best to drink moderately if you choose to drink at all.
Your consumption of salt can also cause blood pressure to rise. If you have high blood pressure, it’s important to subscribe to a low sodium diet in order to help lower it. When you start watching your sodium intake, you’ll be surprised at how much salt is found in foods.
It’s also known that smoking and using other tobacco products can cause your blood pressure levels to rise. Nicotine is the drug in tobacco products and it can cause your heart rate to become elevated as well as your blood pressure.
Smoking is generally bad for heart health and if you have a problem with high blood pressure, the best thing you can do is stop smoking as soon as possible. You’ll begin to reduce your risk of heart disease immediately.
If you lead a stressful lifestyle, it can also lead to high blood pressure. It’s important to manage stress as much as possible. Whenever possible, look for ways to reduce the things that cause your stress. But no matter how much you reduce stress it’s impossible to completely eliminate it.
That makes it critical that you learn how to manage the stress you do have. Meditation is one way you can lower stress levels. You can also use exercise and enjoying hobbies to take your mind off of the things in life that are causing you to feel stress.
You also need to factor in family history. People who have a family history of high blood pressure and heart disease are often going to have to deal with it in their own lives. This genetic predisposition may make it difficult to lower blood pressure without medication – even with a healthy lifestyle.
While there are many things you can do with lifestyle choices, some people have high blood pressure without being able to pinpoint the cause. Understanding what is the cause of high blood pressure can help you to lower it through lifestyle changes or lead you down the road of medication.
Dangerous Blood Pressure
You’ve heard that high blood pressure is unhealthy, but when does it become dangerous blood pressure? High blood pressure is usually symptom free, so if you don’t get it tested you may never even know you have it.
High blood pressure over time can be dangerous because it causes your arteries to get harder and can lead to blockages in your blood vessels. This can lead to risk of heart attack and stroke. This is in and of itself dangerous.
However, there are situations when blood pressure can become so high that you have an emergency situation on your hands. If your blood pressure goes up to 220/140 mmHg, you can have deadly problems.
Usually blood pressure this high will be accompanied by serious symptoms and is caused by problems such as a stroke or heart attack. You might experience a terrible headache or chest pain. This situation can also be caused by a head injury or preeclampsia in women who are pregnant.
If you abuse drugs such as cocaine you can also be put at risk of a dangerous blood pressure emergency. This high level of blood pressure is so serious that it can end your life if you don’t get medical treatment right away.
In addition to a headache or chest pain, you may also feel shortness of breath. Blood pressure this high for very long can cause you to be incapacitated. You can even experience brain damage from this blood pressure.
While there are some situations that come up suddenly due to pregnancy or surgery complications, most people can prevent having high blood pressure that becomes debilitating. It’s important to monitor your blood pressure regularly and to make healthy choices.
If you have high blood pressure, don’t let it go untreated. Some people don’t want to face the fact that they have a serious medical problem and try to ignore it. But by ignoring high blood pressure you increase your risk of having a serious health problem.
Very high blood pressure can be treated with medication before it becomes acutely dangerous. Mildly high blood pressure and even some moderate blood pressure can be lowered by making changes to your diet, exercise program, and stress levels.
If you don’t know what your blood pressure level is, it’s time to start checking it. Your doctor will check it in his or her office but you should also check it regularly on your own. If it seems high, always talk with your doctor about which steps to take.
By keeping tabs on your blood pressure and making healthy lifestyle choices combined with medication, you can avoid having dangerous blood pressure and its deadly consequences.