Blood pressure numbers are an important indicator of health, which is why many doctors recommend checking them at home as you age. But there is no point in doing this if you don’t know what the readings mean or how to collect them correctly.
Additionally, readings vary throughout the day and can depend on factors such as hydration and stress. Also, the ranges of numbers that indicate high, low, and normal blood pressure vary depending on your age.
What is Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is the force that drives blood through the arteries as the heart pumps, delivering oxygen and nutrients to organs and tissues throughout the body. A normal blood pressure reading is essential for your organs to function well and to prevent damage.
Your blood pressure can change based on your age, health conditions, and other lifestyle factors. It’s important to keep an eye on these numbers because when blood pressure rises or falls rapidly, or stays high or low for a long period of time, it can be a sign of poor health and have serious health consequences, including an increased risk of early death.
One way to easily monitor your blood pressure is to use a home blood pressure monitor. In fact, many of the home screens of the best blood pressure monitors 2022 are features that make it easy for you to interpret whether your blood pressure is high or within the normal range with color-coded readings.
However, while there are many home monitors that have features that make it easier to interpret your readings, it’s important to understand what your blood pressure numbers mean and which ones indicate a normal versus a high reading.
What do the Blood Pressure numbers Mean?
A blood pressure reading has two numbers: a top number called the systolic blood pressure and a bottom number called the diastolic blood pressure.
What is Systolic Blood Pressure?
Systolic blood pressure measures the amount of pressure the blood exerts on the walls of the arteries. “The pressure inside our arteries changes with each heartbeat,” says Ian Del Conde Pozzi, MD, a cardiologist and vascular specialist at the Miami Heart and Vascular Institute. When the heart contracts, it pumps extra blood into the circulation, increasing pressure. This increase is measured in systolic blood pressure.
What is Diastolic Blood Pressure?
Diastolic pressure measures the pressure within the system when the heart is at rest, says Dr. Bozy. Systolic blood pressure is the highest pressure during a heartbeat, while diastolic blood pressure is the lowest pressure between heartbeats when the heart rests briefly.
What is Normal Blood Pressure?
A normal blood pressure reading “indicates that the heart and blood vessels aren’t working as hard to push blood and that the blood isn’t putting much pressure on the vessel walls,” says Asim Desai, MD, a cardiologist at Hospital Mission Providence in Southeastern California. Recent data from the American Heart Association indicates that the optimal normal reading for adults older than 20 years is less than 120/80 mmHg.
Dr. Desai notes that blood pressure can vary based on a person’s age, gender, race, and ethnicity, but it should stay within the general normal range. While numbers below 120/80 are generally considered normal, Dr. Desai adds: “Target blood pressure for treatment varies with age (for example, whether a person is considered elderly) and comorbidities (such as diabetes).
Normal Blood Pressure by age, Race and Gender
Previously, guidelines for normal blood pressure for adults varied by specific gender and age, but new data indicate that normal blood pressure for adults as a group is less than 120/80 mmHg.
When it comes to race and ethnicity, Dr. Desai says that certain groups have a higher rate of high blood pressure. “Non-Hispanic blacks have significantly higher blood pressure than non-Hispanic whites, and non-Hispanic blacks and non-Hispanic Asians have lower rates than the first two,” he adds.
He adds that the reason for this difference could range from poor insurance coverage and poor access to health care to gaps in medication use to treat multiple conditions with “low adherence in certain groups.”
As for gender, there is greater evidence of cardiovascular disease risk in women with lower-than-normal blood pressure, says Jennifer Wong, MD, medical director of noninvasive cardiology at Memorial Care Heart and Vascular Institute at Orange Center. . in Source. Valley, Calif.
“An observational study published in Circulation earlier this year indicated an increased risk of myocardial infarction and heart failure in women starting with a systolic blood pressure greater than 110 mmHg,” says Dr. Wong . “The increased risk is comparable to men with higher blood pressure levels.”
Normal Blood Pressure
Dr. Wong says that people between 90 and 120 years of age with systolic blood pressure and between 60 and 80 diastolic blood pressure are normal. A systolic reading below 90 indicates low blood pressure.
A blood pressure reading of 120 to 129 systolic blood pressure and less than 80 diastolic blood pressure indicates high blood pressure and therefore a higher chance of developing high blood pressure.
“With high blood pressure, the workload on the heart and arteries increases,” says Dr. Desai. “This leads to  thickening of the heart muscle (hypertrophy), which can lead to heart failure. It also leads to a small rupture of the artery wall, which leads to cholesterol deposition (atherosclerosis). This leads to [ narrowing] of the blood vessel and increased high blood pressure.”
First Stage of High Blood Pressure
Stage 1 high blood pressure is defined by a systolic reading of 130 to 139 and a diastolic reading of 80 to 89.
Dr. Wong says that while doctors initially treat this stage of high blood pressure by suggesting a healthier lifestyle (eat more vegetables and whole grains, use less salt, increase physical activity, and manage stress), it’s possible Medications may be needed if it decreases. this range across multiple readings over a period of time in people with other cardiovascular risk factors.
Dr. Wong adds that according to the 2017 ACC/AHA guidelines, adults with stage 1 hypertension should consider treatment after three to six months of non-drug therapy. There is also a risk of developing atherosclerosis (thickening or hardening of the arteries caused by plaque buildup on the inner lining of an artery) if left untreated. Risk factors for atherosclerosis can include high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, high blood pressure, smoking, diabetes, obesity, physical activity, and saturated fat intake.
Stage 2 Hypertension
Stage 2 high blood pressure is characterized by a systolic reading of at least 140 and a diastolic reading of at least 90. It’s usually treated with a combination of medications and a healthy lifestyle, says Dr. Wong. However, this stage of hypertension is more severe than the previous one and must be carefully monitored.
A hypertensive crisis is an emergency and occurs when the systolic blood pressure reading exceeds 180 and the diastolic reading exceeds 120. “Immediate organ damage can occur and emergency treatment should be sought if symptoms of stroke occur, headache, visual changes and dizziness,” says Dr. Wong: chest or shortness of breath.
How to Take Blood Pressure
You can measure your blood pressure at home using a wrist sphygmomanometer or cuff sphygmomanometer. Experts often recommend humeral cuffs because they are the most accurate. Upper cuffs can come with a manual or digital display. Both work well, but if you regularly measure your blood pressure yourself, a digital pressure is likely to be easier to use correctly.
To accurately measure your blood pressure with a digital upper arm cuff, start by sitting upright for a few minutes, allowing your body to relax. Consider opening your legs and ankles, as well as using a comfortable back support.
With the monitor resting on a table in front of you, place your arm next to it at about heart level, and wrap the cuff around your bare arm about an inch above your elbow. Secure the strap so that you can only move your fingertip below the top edge.
Then simply turn on the monitor, press the start button, breathe normally with the cuff inflated and deflated, measure your blood pressure and output the reading on the screen.
What is Considered high Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is defined as systolic readings of at least 130 mmHg and diastolic readings of at least 80 mmHg, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As of 2021, 116 million adults in the United States have high blood pressure.
What leads to High Blood Pressure?
The cause of high blood pressure, or high blood pressure, is often unknown. It develops over time and often occurs as a result of unhealthy lifestyle choices, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
“Sometimes some people have high blood pressure caused by an underlying condition, such as kidney disease, adrenal tumors, or thyroid disorders,” says Dr. Wong. Other conditions such as pregnancy, diabetes, and obesity can increase your risk.
“Some people are prone to high blood pressure from certain medications, such as birth control pills, some decongestants, and even some over-the-counter pain relievers,” says Wong. “Illicit drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamines, can also increase blood pressure.”
High blood pressure is very common. A 2017-2018 survey by the National Center for Health Statistics found that 45.5% of adults in the United States have high blood pressure.
Symptoms of High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is known as the “silent killer” because it usually has no symptoms. In fact, most people don’t realize they have high blood pressure until they get it under control.
“Symptoms don’t show up until the numbers are very high and organs are damaged, often irreversibly,” says Dr. Desai.
If you have severe high blood pressure, you may notice the following symptoms, some of which were reported by patients in a study published in the British Journal of General Practice.
- Difficulty breathing
- Water flow – drainage
- Chest pain
- Visual changes
- Blood in the urine
- Humor changes
Treatment: How to Lower High Blood Pressure
“A healthy lifestyle can help prevent some of the damage that can occur with high blood pressure, as well as help lower blood pressure to some extent,” says Dr. Wong. He recommends:
- Limit salt intake to 2.3 grams per day.
- Complete 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise.
- Limit alcohol intake.
- Follow Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), which can help lower your blood pressure, says Dr. Wong. It is a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts. It is low in sweets, sugary drinks and red meat.
- Manage your stress with practices like meditation.
- Reduce the percentage of total fat in the body.
- Properly manage associated medical conditions, such as diabetes.
Side Effects of High Blood Pressure
“Risks of untreated high blood pressure include stroke, heart attack, heart failure, vision loss, kidney failure, vascular dementia, and impotence,” says Dr. Desai. It is one of the most important risk factors for developing atrial fibrillation, which is the most common heart rhythm disorder worldwide and can lead to stroke, heart failure, and decreased quality of life.
What is Low Blood Pressure?
While high blood pressure can be a problem for your overall health, blood pressure that is too low can also be a cause for concern. However, the American Heart Association does not recognize a daily blood pressure reading as “too low.” Instead, it’s about the symptoms you might experience with low blood pressure, how those symptoms affect you, and how long they last.
What Causes Low Blood Pressure?
There are many possible causes of low blood pressure, according to Dr. Wong and Dr. Desai, including:
- Heart problems such as heart failure or low heart rate
- Endocrine problems, such as parathyroid disease, adrenal insufficiency, or hypoglycemia
- Sepsis from a serious infection
- Side effects of medications for high blood pressure, enlarged prostate, Parkinson’s disease, depression, and erectile dysfunction
- Significant weight loss
- Blood loss or anemia
- Low blood pressure symptoms
Symptoms of low blood pressure can include:
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Lack of concentration
- Blurry vision
- Fresh and hydrated skin
- Fast and shallow breathing
- Elevated heart rate
Treatment: How to Increase Low Blood Pressure
Treatment for low blood pressure depends on the cause. “Some medications may need to be adjusted or stopped if they are contributing to low blood pressure,” says Dr. Wong. “Some lifestyle modifications, as well as sometimes drug therapy, can also be helpful.”
Side Effects of Low Blood Pressure
Low blood pressure may not be discussed as often as high blood pressure, but it should be treated, as prolonged low blood pressure can negatively affect your organs.
“A certain amount of blood pressure is needed to maintain blood flow to the organs,” says Dr. Wong. “Blood provides oxygen and nutrients to these organs. If blood pressure is too low, adequate blood supply will not reach these organs.”
Dr. Desai adds that low blood pressure, if left untreated, can increase the risk of fainting, heart attack and organ damage.
Heart Rate vs Blood Pressure
Blood pressure measures the force that moves blood through the blood vessels, while heart rate is the number of times the heart beats per minute. Both are important health indicators, but they are measured independently and do not necessarily increase or decrease simultaneously.
A temporary increase in heart rate, such as during exercise, is not a problem. In fact, your heart is expected to rise during a period of activity and then return to its resting rate. And the harder you work, the more you can expect your heart rate to increase during exercise. Your heart rate can safely double during activity, as long as it returns to a resting rate soon after you finish exercising.
On the other hand, large increases in blood pressure are not normal and should be monitored and shared with your health care provider.
Blood Pressure Monitor vs Blood Pressure Cuff
The terms “blood pressure monitor” and “blood pressure monitor” are often used to describe the same instrument. A blood pressure cuff is the item that is placed around the upper arm, wrist, or finger to measure blood pressure. The blood pressure monitor is the component responsible for inflating and deflating the belt, as well as providing a blood pressure reading on an easy-to-read display.
Most experts recommend using a sphygmomanometer with an upper arm blood pressure cuff for home readings because they tend to be more accurate than wrist cuffs and fingers.
When do You Call your Doctor?
The risks of high and low blood pressure make home blood pressure monitoring essential to your overall health and well-being. Dr. Wong and Dr. Desai recommend calling your health care provider if your self-monitored blood pressure readings are higher than 180/120 mmHg, even if you have no other symptoms.
“You should call 911 if these blood pressure readings are associated with symptoms of organ damage, such as headaches, vision changes, weakness, numbness, chest pain, or shortness of breath,” says Dr. Wong.