One of the first things you’ll experience at almost any doctor’s office visit is a blood pressure check. You’ve probably been through it a hundred times, if not more. But have you ever taken the time to wonder what those numbers mean for your overall health? Keep reading to get a better understanding of blood pressure.
What Do the Numbers Mean in Your Blood Pressure Reading?
Basically, blood pressure readings measure how hard your heart is working to pump blood throughout your body. There are two numbers used to record your blood pressure. These are expressed as mm Hg, which stands for means millimeters of mercury. This has long been a medical standard for measuring pressure. The first number is called systolic blood pressure. This is how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls with each heartbeat. The second number is called diastolic blood pressure. It measures how much pressure your blood exerts against your artery walls between beats when your heart is at rest.
What Is a Normal Blood Pressure?
The American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association released a comprehensive set of guidelines in 2017. Called the High Blood Pressure Clinical Practice Guideline, these guidelines changed the definition of normal blood pressure. You are considered to have a normal blood pressure reading if your systolic pressure is less than 120 and your diastolic pressure is lower than 80. If your blood pressure falls in this range, you should continue habits and behaviors that promote heart health, like a proper diet and exercise regimen.
What Is Considered High Blood Pressure?
Under the 2017 guidelines, almost half of American adults have at least mildly elevated blood pressure. The different stages of elevated pressure or hypertension are:
- Elevated: systolic pressure is between 120-130, and your diastolic pressure is less than 80
- Hypertension (stage 1): consistent blood pressure readings with systolic pressure between 130 -139 or a diastolic pressure of 80-89
- Hypertension (stage 2): systolic pressure of 140 or higher or a diastolic reading of 90 or higher
- Hypertensive emergency: systolic pressure is higher than 180, or diastolic pressure is greater than 120; risk for a stroke or cardiac event
Can Your Blood Pressure Be Too Low?
For some people, blood pressure can be too low. This may result in dizziness, weakness, and fainting. If allowed to drop too low, hypotension can cause vital organs to be deprived of enough oxygen and lead to serious damage to the heart and brain.
How Does Blood Pressure Affect Your Health?
If your heart has to work too hard to pump blood through your body, it can become damaged over time. Besides, elevated blood pressure greatly increases your risk of death from ischemic heart disease and stroke. If you have been diagnosed with hypertension, you should follow your doctor’s advice and take steps to reduce it.
Natural Ways to Keep Your Blood Pressure Under Control
Lifestyle behaviors can improve your heart health and possibly even lower your blood pressure readings. A few strategies you might try include:
- Eating a plant-based diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids.
- Exercising at least 150 minutes each week at a moderate intensity
- Reducing stress
- Limiting your sodium intake
- Quitting nicotine
- Reducing your alcohol consumption or limiting it to moderate amounts of red wine
Your blood pressure doesn’t give a complete picture of your overall health. It does, however, indicate your likelihood of developing other, serious complications. Always take time to record your readings and work to keep them within a normal range. For more tips, keep up with Aging Healthy Today.