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What Does My Blood Pressure Reading Mean?

doctor taking a patient's blood pressure

Certainly you don’t need a holter monitor company to tell you that high blood pressure isn’t a good thing – it can lead to heart failure, damage to the arteries, stroke, kidney failure and can even be a cause of dementia. It is easier said than done to take steps to lower your blood pressure, although if you understand the meaning behind those readings, it may persuade you to address it.

A blood pressure reading consists of two numbers, the top one which is the systolic pressure, and the lower number called the diastolic pressure. Systolic pressure tells you the amount of pressure exerted by your blood against the artery walls when your heart is beating. The lower reading of diastolic pressure is an indication of the amount of pressure being exerted between the beats of your heart, when it is resting. Although the top number is the more important reading, both numbers have to be taken into consideration. The AHA (American Heart Association) considers a blood pressure reading to be normal if the systolic reading is between 90 and 120, and the diastolic reading is between 60 and 80.

Prehypertension isn’t as dangerous as having high blood pressure, but it is a sign that your numbers are higher than they ideally should be. If your systolic blood pressure is between 120 and 139, or the lower diastolic number is between 80 and 89, you are said to have prehypertension. If your readings are regularly in this range, it should be a wake up call to perhaps take more exercise and do something about your diet. Medication isn’t normally prescribed for anyone whose blood pressure falls within this range.

Stage one hypertension is the term given to blood pressure readings between 140 and 159 (systolic) and 90 to 99 (diastolic) while stage two hypertension is considered to be readings over 160 for systolic pressure, and 100 for diastolic. Changes in lifestyle are definitely recommended if your blood pressure is routinely between any of these numbers, although medication for blood pressure may also be needed.

The most dangerous blood pressure readings are those which are above 180 for systolic, and above 100 for diastolic. Readings this high indicate a major health problem, and even if you don’t have any other symptoms, it is essential to seek medical health. Typical accompanying symptoms can include difficulty breathing, chest pain, dizziness and blood in the urine. A hypertensive crisis is the name given to these high blood pressure levels by the American Heart Association.

There are several causes of high blood pressure, some of which just cannot be avoided, such as genetics, age and the everyday stress of daily life. However, being overweight, an unhealthy diet – especially one with too much salt – smoking, excess drinking and a lack of exercise can all cause those numbers to increase. It’s easy to check your blood pressure. You don’t need any fancy cardiac monitoring equipment, in fact you can do it for free at your local pharmacy. Knowing what your numbers are is one of the healthiest moves you can make.

This site is not designed to and does not provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment or services to you or to any other individuals. Through this site and links to other sites, CMS provides general information for educational purposes only. The information provided in this site, or through links to other sites, is not a substitute for medical or professional care.

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