Is Your Blood Pressure “Normal”?

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Ewan Hollander

Just sharing things that interest me in the hopes that they interest others as well

If your blood pressure has consistently remained just under 140/90 mmHg, you may have been informed, by your doctor even, that this was “normal” and not a cause for concern. New guidelines from the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology, however, are challenging this previously agreed upon metric in efforts to curb a heart disease epidemic the continues to kill hundreds of thousands of people each year.

Understanding Blood Pressure

To grasp the new defining parameters for what is and isn’t high blood pressure, it’s critical to first understand exactly what blood pressure is, how it is measured, and why keeping it in check is important to your own health outcomes. Essentially, “blood pressure” is the force your heart uses to pump blood throughout your body’s circulation system.

Blood pressure readings are generated as a number over another number – the top number is your systolic pressure and the bottom number is your diastolic pressure. Both are listed in the units “mmHg” which stands for millimeters of mercury. Your systolic pressure is the force of your blood moving through your circulatory system when your heart beats; diastolic pressure inversely represents the force of your blood between beats when the heart rests.

Blood pressure is typically read with a monitor – either a digital arm or wrist cuff, or a cuff with a manual pump and sphygmomanometer. The cuff is filled with air, inflating until it temporarily cuts off the blood flow in your arm (or wrist). The air in the cuff is then slowly released, relieving the pressure on your arm as the reading is taken.

Factors affecting blood pressure may include the health of your heart and blood vessels, your activity levels, your age and sex, your stress levels, and the presence of existing health conditions. Monitoring blood pressure plays an important role in preventing  (hypertension), a key risk factor in a host of diseases including stroke, heart disease, and diabetes.

What do the new guidelines mean?

Where as previous definitions listed high blood pressure as any consistent blood pressure higher than 140/90 mm Hg, the new guidelines lower the threshold substantially. Anything under 120/80 is now considered “normal”, and an “elevated” (but not yet hypertensive) reading includes a systolic pressure that falls between 120 and 129.

Stage 1 hypertension (previously called “prehypertension) can be diagnosed with consistent readings of systolic pressures between 130 and 139 or diastolic pressures between 80 and 89. Stage 2 hypertension now falls anywhere over 140 systolic or 90 diastolic.

What should you do?

Talk to your doctor today about your blood pressure and what the new definitions mean for your management and/or treatment plans. Luckily, lifestyle changes regarding diet and exercise are still the primary recommendation for staving off hypertension and even reversing elevated blood pressure. Medication may be added to a treatment regimen as risk for cardiovascular disease and other factors are weighed by your care team. Start a dialogue today and keep high blood pressure away!

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Ewan Hollander

Just sharing things that interest me in the hopes that they interest others as well

Is Your Blood Pressure &#…

by Ewan Hollander time to read: 2 min
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