Blood Pressure: What It Is and Why You Should Know Your Numbers

Whenever you visit the doctor’s office, one of the first things they do when checking your vitals is check your blood pressure. But what exactly does that mean? What should you be gathering about those numbers they tell you? While the reading is a fairly simple one to get, what it is telling is extremely important.

Basically, blood pressure is referring to the amount of pressure from the circulating blood on the walls of your blood vessels as your heart beats. The blood pressure measurement involves two measurements: the systolic pressure and diastolic pressure. Systolic pressure is the maximum pressure during a heartbeat, and diastolic pressure is the minimum pressure between heartbeats. The numbers you are told from the doctor are read as systolic over diastolic pressure. Blood pressure readings can be influenced by such things as stress, anxiety, physical activity and more. This reading is not related to your heart rate or pulse, which is a completely separate indication of health. Getting readings that are too low or too high can both be problematic to your health, so regular blood pressure readings are essential to ongoing health.

A normal blood pressure reading is when your systolic (or upper) number is less than 120 and your diastolic (or lower) number is less than 80. While there is no specific number that is too low, if other symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, fainting, dehydration or more are also present, there is a medical issue that should be addressed right away. If your reading shows a systolic number of 120-129 and diastolic number of less than 80, your blood pressure is considered “elevated,” which is a good indication that you will likely develop high blood pressure unless the proper precautions are taken to gain control of it.

Once your numbers begin to dwell within the high blood pressure range, you are at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack and stroke. Working with your doctor to make vital lifestyle changes and adding in medications as necessary is essential to bringing numbers back to a normal range, protecting yourself from potentially deadly consequences.

Within the realm of high blood pressure, there are three stages:

  • High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) Stage 1: Systolic 130-139 or Diastolic 80-89. At this stage, you will most likely be instructed to make lifestyle changes and your medical provider may potentially add medication as necessary.
  • High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) Stage 2: Systolic 140 or higher or Diastolic 90 or higher. This stage requires lifestyle changes combined with blood pressure medications to help lower the risk of heart attack or stroke.
  • Hypertensive Crisis: Systolic higher than 180 and/or Diastolic higher than 120. If you receive this high of a reading, it is advised to wait five minutes and test again. If they remain elevated, contact your doctor immediately. Do not wait to see if it comes down on its own, as this high of blood pressure can result in organ damage with symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, back pain, numbness, vision changes, and difficulty speaking.

It is important to receive blood pressure checks regularly, as nearly half of the adults in America have high blood pressure yet remain unaware. Even if your blood pressure numbers are normal, regular checks will help alert your physician to any oncoming issues should it begin to increase down the road.

Take control of your heart health and learn your blood pressure numbers today. Walk in to any of our Midwest Express Clinic locations today and have your blood pressure reading performed by an experienced medical professional.