What Do The Numbers Mean
When a healthcare professional takes your blood pressure, its expressed as a measurement with two numbers, one number on top and one on the bottom , like a fraction. For example, 120/80 mm Hg.
Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury. Thats what the mm/Hg stands for. Heres what the numbers mean:
- Your systolic pressure is the pressure of the blood in your arteries when your heart contracts or beats.
- Your diastolic pressure is the pressure of the blood in your arteries between beats, when your heart relaxes.
Both numbers are important in determining the state of your heart health.
Numbers greater than the ideal range may be a sign that your heart is working too hard to pump blood to the rest of your body.
For a normal reading, your blood pressure needs to show:
- a systolic pressure thats above 90 mm Hg and less than 120 mm Hg, and
- a diastolic pressure thats between 60 mm Hg and less than 80 mm Hg
The American Heart Association considers blood pressure to be within the normal range when both your systolic and diastolic numbers are in these ranges.
You may need to be even more mindful of your lifestyle if high blood pressure runs in your family.
Normal Blood Pressure For Children
Normal BP ranges vary in children by age. The University of Iowa Stead Family Childrens Hospital provides this chart:
|Normal Blood Pressure for Children|
|112128 mm Hg||6680 mm Hg|
What is considered healthy for your child also varies by height, age, and sex. You can use Baylor College of Medicines calculator to see if your childs blood pressure reading is in a healthy range.
What Causes High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure usually develops over time. It can happen because of unhealthy lifestyle choices, such as not getting enough regular physical activity. Certain health conditions, such as diabetes and having obesity, can also increase the risk for developing high blood pressure. High blood pressure can also happen during pregnancy.
You can manage your blood pressure to lower your risk for serious health problems that may affect your heart, brain, kidneys, and eyes.
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New High Blood Pressure Guidelines: Think Your Blood Pressure Is Fine Think Again
The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association certainly grabbed the attention of us busy primary care physicians with the recent release of their updated blood pressure guidelines. These organizations had piqued interest by declaring the release date and labeling it as highly anticipated. I pooh-poohed all that drama, but upon reading through the 114-page executive summary PDF with 21 authors and almost a thousand references, I have to say, I am duly impressed.
The definition of the diagnosis of high blood pressure and the decision-making process surrounding treatment have traditionally been quite individualized . Personally, I invite these stricter measures, because they are accompanied by solid research, logistical guidance, and useful management strategies.
However, a whole heck of a lot of people just got pulled into a significant medical diagnosis.
Lets review whats new.
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What You Should Know About A Blood Pressure Of 140/80
The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association have created blood pressure guidelines to assist in the definition of hypertension and its treatment decision-making process. Stage one hypertension is the intermediary stage between the elevated blood pressure stage, which covers systolic pressures ranging from 120-129 mmHg and diastolic pressures under 80 mmHg, and stage two hypertension, which covers systolic pressures of 140 mmHg and up and/or diastolic pressures of 90 mmHg and up.
When your blood pressure readings consistently, meaning at least two reliable readings on two separate occasions, read 130-139 mmHg systolic pressure or 80-89 mmHg diastolic pressure, its considered hypertension stage one.
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What Do Blood Pressure Numbers Mean
Blood pressure is measured using two numbers:
The first number, called systolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats.
The second number, called diastolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart rests between beats.
If the measurement reads 120 systolic and 80 diastolic, you would say, 120 over 80, or write, 120/80 mmHg.
What Does A Blood Pressure Reading Of 140/85 Mean
Readings above 140 systolic pressure indicate Stage 1 Hypertension even if your diastolic pressure is between 80 and 89. This is because the worse reading is used when systolic and diastolic pressure fall into different ranges.
Hypertension increases your risk of life-threatening problems such as heart attacks and stroke. Blood pressure in this range may also damage the heart and kidneys, particularly in those who already have chronic medical problems affecting these organs.
What Can I Do To Lower My Blood Pressure
There are things we can all do to help control blood pressure. These lifestyle modifications are changes you can make in your daily life.
- Follow the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH diet. This includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products with reduced saturated and total fat.
- Increase your physical activity. Add 90 to 150 minutes each week of aerobic exercise. Also, include three days of strength training each week. Not only can this help reduce or control your blood pressure, but it can also help with weight management. In overweight individuals, a weight loss of even five to 10 percent has been shown to reduce blood pressure.
- Limit your alcohol. It is recommended that men have no more than two drinks per day and women have no more than one to help control blood pressure.
- Manage your stress. Because stress can have a major impact on our bodies, it is important to have an effective coping technique. There are many techniques for relaxation.
- If you smoke, quit. Quitting smoking can have a huge impact on your health.
These are some of the most proactive ways one can support a normal blood pressure and an overall healthy life. But sometimes, even a healthy lifestyle is not enough to maintain a safe blood pressure. When lifestyle modifications do not lower blood pressure to better levels, medication can be prescribed.
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What To Do If Your Blood Pressure Reading Is 140/90
A blood pressure reading of 140/90 can be cause for concern. The first step is to take another reading to confirm your blood pressure.
As an aside, home blood pressure monitors are amazingly affordable and great way to stay on top of your blood pressure. So invest in your health and check out .
Elevated blood pressure should be confirmed on at least 3 separate days before diagnosing hypertension.
Already diagnosed with hypertension? If so a blood pressure in this range may indicate the need to adjust your blood pressure medications.
Once you have been assessed by a medical professional there are a number of ways you can address a blood pressure reading of 140/90.
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Who Is Affected By High Blood Pressure
Approximately 1 in 3, more than 100 million, American adults have high blood pressure. But only half of those people have their condition under control. Many people develop high blood pressure when they are in their late 30s or early 40s, and it occurs more frequently as people age. However, because of the obesity epidemic, more and more children are also developing high blood pressure.
What Is The Treatment For High Blood Pressure
Mild high blood pressure can often be treated by making lifestyle changes, including:
- limiting your alcohol intake to no more than 2 drinks per day for men, or 1 drink per day for women with high blood pressure
However, lifestyle changes may not be enough. Some people also need medication to help reduce blood pressure levels to normal. While medicines are usually very effective at lowering blood pressure, they may cause side effects in some people.
Usually doctors will start a person on a low dose of a medicine and see how it goes. If it doesnt work well enough, or if there are troublesome side effects, other medicines will be used, sometimes in combination, until the blood pressure is controlled. This can take time. Some people will take medicines for life, although others will find that continuing to lose weight and changing their diet reduces the need for medicines.
Someone whose blood pressure is very high or causing symptoms such as headache, or if they have conditions such as heart disease or diabetes, may need urgent treatment with medicines to bring the blood pressure down to normal levels.
The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners recommends that you regularly review with your doctor or specialist any medications you are taking for high blood pressure or high cholesterol to assess the ongoing benefits and risks. For further information, visit the Choosing Wisely Australia website.
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Medications With Blood Pressure Of 140/68
If you arent on medications already, your doctor may recommend you begin with lifestyle changes. However, many will ultimately need medication to reduce their high blood pressure.
Medications can have a big impact on your blood pressure. There are a variety of different types of blood pressure medications available.
Following is a short list of each type of medication and what they do to reduce blood pressure.
- DiureticsHelps rid the body of sodium , which helps control blood pressure.
- Beta-blockersHelps reduce your heart rate, which helps lower blood pressure.
- ACE inhibitorsACE stands for Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme. Helps the body produce less angiotensin, which helps the blood vessels relax and lowers blood pressure.
- Angiotensin II receptor blockersHelps block the chemical that causes blood vessels to narrow, which helps blood vessels stay open and lowers blood pressure.
- Calcium channel blockersHelps lower blood pressure by preventing calcium from entering smooth muscle cells, which can cause stronger heart contraction and narrow blood vessels.
- Alpha blockersHelps relax certain muscles, which keeps blood vessels open and lowers blood pressure.
- Alpha-2 Receptor AgonistsHelps lower blood pressure by inhibiting sympathetic activity.
- Central agonistsUsing a different nerve path than Alpha and Beta blockers, Central agonists help relax blood vessels, which lowers blood pressure.
- VasodilatorsHelps dilate the blood vessels, which lowers blood pressure.
What Can I Expect If I Have This Condition
Since high blood pressure doesnt cause many symptoms at first, you probably wont feel any different with a high blood pressure diagnosis. But its important to follow your providers instructions to bring your blood pressure down so it doesnt cause serious illnesses later in life.
How long does high blood pressure last?
If you have primary high blood pressure, youll need to control it for the rest of your life.
If you have secondary high blood pressure, your blood pressure will most likely come down after you receive treatment for the medical problem that caused it. If a medication caused your high blood pressure, switching to a different medicine may lower your blood pressure.
What is the outlook for high blood pressure?
You can get seriously ill if you dont treat your high blood pressure. However, if you take the medicines your provider ordered, you can control your blood pressure. Exercising and eating healthy foods also helps lower your blood pressure.
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How Blood Pressure Is Measured
Blood pressure testing stations can be found in pharmacies, workplaces, and medical clinics. You can also buy a blood pressure monitor online or at your local pharmacy.
To measure blood pressure, a cuff attached to a monitor is placed on your arm. The cuff is then inflated with an air pump until its pressure stops blood flow from your brachial arterythe major artery found in your upper arm.
As the cuff deflates, the device measures the pressure when blood starts flowing again . Once the cuff is completely deflated, the device gauges the lowest pressure between beats .
Typically, more attention is given to the systolic pressure reading, as systolic blood pressure is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease in people over the age of 50. Still, both readings are used to make a diagnosis.
How Is High Blood Pressure Treated
Treatment for hypertension depends on how high your blood pressure is, as well as your lifestyle and risk factors.
For elevated blood pressure, the goal is to keep your blood pressure from developing into clinical hypertension. No medications are necessary at this stage. Your doctor may recommend:
- losing weight if you have overweight or obesity
For stage 1 hypertension, your doctor may recommend lifestyle changes as mentioned above, as well as:
- reducing your sodium intake
- finding healthy ways to manage your stress
- medication, if your blood pressure doesnt improve after 1 month of lifestyle changes
For stage 2 hypertension, the typical treatment, in addition to a healthier lifestyle, is medication. Your doctor may prescribe one or more of the following medications to help lower your blood pressure:
- ACE inhibitors to block substances that tighten blood vessels
- alpha blockers to help relax the arteries
- beta-blockers to decrease your heart rate and block substances that tighten blood vessels
- calcium channel blockers to relax blood vessels and decrease the work of your heart
- diuretics to decrease the amount of fluid in your body, including your blood vessels
A hypertensive crisis requires immediate treatment. Medications may be given orally or intravenously .
The most for a hypertensive crisis include:
- vasodilators, such as hydralazine, nitroglycerin, and nitroprusside
- beta-blockers, such as labetalol and esmolol
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When To Contact A Medical Professional
If you have high blood pressure, you will have regular checkups with your provider.
Even if you have not been diagnosed with high blood pressure, it is important to have your blood pressure checked during your regular check-up, especially if someone in your family has or had high blood pressure.
Contact your provider right away if home monitoring shows that your blood pressure is still high.
What Does High Blood Pressure Feel Like
High blood pressure often doesn’t have any symptoms, so you usually don’t feel it. Thats why its important to stay up to date on your preventive care screenings can help identify potential problems like elevated blood pressure when its easiest to treat.
If your blood pressure reaches extremely high levels, you may get a headache, shortness of breath or a nosebleed. However, these symptoms may not be specific to your blood pressure. Critically high blood pressure can be caused by conditions that can have similar symptoms, like strokes, heart attacks, heart failure, kidney failure or certain drug interactions.
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Why Is It Important To Know If You Have High Blood Pressure
Early detection of high blood pressure is very important. Often referred to as the silent killer because it may show no symptoms, high blood pressure puts you at an increased risk for heart disease, heart failure, and stroke, among other things. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2013, more than 360,000 deaths in the United States included high blood pressure as a primary or contributing cause.
How Often Should You Get Your Blood Pressure Checked
If your blood pressure is higher than it should be, follow your doctors advice with regard to how often you should check your blood pressure at home. Also find out from your doctor what you should do if your blood pressure readings are higher than usual.
If you dont have high blood pressure, its still important to get it checked regularly, as blood pressure can change over time. Medical experts suggest the following timeline for low risk individuals:
- For people between 18 and 40. Get your blood pressure checked at least once every 2 years.
- For anyone over 40. Get your blood pressure checked at least once a year.
You may need to have your blood pressure checked more regularly if you:
- have a family history of hypertension
- have heart disease, diabetes, or kidney disease
- are overweight or have obesity
- have sleep apnea or insomnia
You dont necessarily have to get your blood pressure checked at your doctors office. Some health care clinics do free blood pressure screenings. You may also schedule an appointment at your local pharmacy.
Untreated and uncontrolled high blood pressure can damage your blood vessels and other organs, including your heart, kidneys, eyes, and brain.
Complications of hypertension can include:
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The Blood Pressure Chart
Once you know your numbers, you can use the blood pressure chart to see what they mean and if your blood pressure is in the healthy range. The chart is suitable for adults of any age, as the cut-off point for diagnosing high blood pressure doesnt change with age.
How to use the blood pressure chart
Simply find your top number on the left side of the chart and your bottom number on the bottom. Where the two lines meet is your blood pressure.
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Q: What Advice Do You Give Patients Whose Blood Pressure Is In The 130/80 Range Who Previously Werent Diagnosed With High Blood Pressure And Now They Have It
A: This new classification is not saying that you or your doctor have been doing anything wrong with your blood pressure. We have always classified blood pressure above 120/80 as high. The goal of the new classification is to raise awareness about high blood pressure and improve treatment. By diagnosing high blood pressure earlier, we can help prevent more heart attacks and strokes. These new guidelines are not necessarily going to change whether you are prescribed medication for your high blood pressure or what medications youre on the levels. Were still prescribing the same medications you were on before. We are trying to help give everyone access to the treatments they need and more early aggressive treatment. Were just focusing a lot more on diet, weight loss and exercise.
Its really at 140/90 that were treating patients with medications. At 130/80, were looking at lifestyle changes. Its only people with a lot of risk factors that we will be aggressive with and try to get lower than 130/80.
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