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How to Understand Blood Pressure Readings

Doctors test blood pressure to see if the blood flow around the circulatory system is normal, low, or high. Too low or high blood pressure can lead to significant health complications like stroke, cardiac arrest, kidney failure, or brain damage.

A blood pressure test is the only way to know your blood pressure and if it’s in the normal range. So, it is essential to understand the numbers to know what the readings mean. This article will discuss how blood pressure is measured, what the numbers mean, and what the ranges are.

How is Blood Pressure Tested?

To test blood pressure, a device called a sphygmomanometer is used. It includes an inflated cuff or armband that temporarily stops the pulse, followed by slowly deflating the cuff to resume circulation. A stethoscope is then used to listen to the pulse or sound of blood flowing through the arteries. The pressure required to move mercury in a tube expresses the rate at which blood is pulsing, which is measured in millimetres of mercury (mm Hg). Alternatively, digital readings can be taken and displayed on a screen. Blood pressure is the force with which the heart pushes blood around the body to nourish organs and tissues with oxygen-rich blood.

You will encounter two numbers representing systolic and diastolic pressure when monitoring blood pressure. The systolic pressure, which is the higher number, reflects the rate at which the heart contracts, while the diastolic pressure, the lower number, represents the rate at which the heart relaxes. The systolic pressure is the first number recorded, as in a blood pressure reading of 140/80mmHg, where 140 is the systolic pressure and 80 is the diastolic pressure. The systolic blood pressure number is more critical as a higher value increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

How to understand the readings?

A reading between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg is considered normal. A reading higher than 140/90mmHg is counted as high blood pressure; if it is lower than 90/60mmHg, it is counted as low blood pressure.

Here is a general guide according to the American Heart Association:

90/60mmHg or lower — Low Blood Pressure

These readings are counted as low blood pressure, which usually doesn’t cause severe complications. Low blood pressure can make you feel dizzy with lightheadedness and blurred vision. In rare cases, if the blood pressure drops so low that oxygen and other nutrients cannot reach vital organs, it can result in organ failure, such as brain damage.

90/60mmHg to 120/80mmHg — Normal Blood Pressure

These readings mean that your blood pressure is normal and healthy. There is a minimal risk of cardiovascular diseases and stroke at this range. You can maintain normal blood pressure by practicing a healthy lifestyle.

120/70mmHg to 129/80mmHg — Elevated Blood Pressure

Although these readings also come under the normal range, it also means that you have increased chances of developing high blood pressure or hypertension. The risks of cardiovascular diseases and stroke increase at this point, and trying to control your blood pressure is essential. Opting for healthy lifestyle choices will help lower and maintain your blood pressure.

130/80mmHg to 139/89 — High Blood Pressure (Stage 1)

This reading is alarming, as this is stage 1 high blood pressure or hypertension. This reading significantly increases the risks of such complications as cardiac arrest or stroke. Your doctor may prescribe blood pressure medicines at this point. If you get these readings frequently, adopting a healthy lifestyle to control your blood pressure is important.

140/90mmHg or higher — High Blood Pressure (Stage 2)

This reading translates to stage 2 high blood pressure (hypertension). Your doctor will prescribe one or more blood pressure medicine and recheck your condition after a certain period. If you get a consistent reading, you must actively adopt and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

180/120 or higher — Hypertensive Crises

This range is called hypertensive crises; if this persists, you need immediate medical attention. If this reading comes out of the blue and you don’t have a history of hypertension, then it is essential to take multiple readings to be sure.

If, at this stage, you are experiencing symptoms such as shortness of breath, numbness, pain in the chest, blurry vision, or difficulty speaking, then you might be going through organ failure. You should be rushed to the hospital.

How to have an accurate reading?

A single reading can never determine the correct blood pressure, as it changes throughout the day. Blood pressure can be influenced by temperature, meals, and stress. If you have the chance of being diagnosed with hypertension, your doctor will measure it several times over several visits to ensure that they have an accurate reading.

Monitoring Blood Pressure at Home

You can learn to check your blood pressure at home using kits available at pharmacies. Electronic digital kits are fairly easy to use if you cannot figure your way around the traditional mercury tube.

You might be specifically advised to check your blood pressure at home if you have a “white coat hypertension” condition. This is an actual condition where being in the hospital raises one’s blood pressure, but it’s normal at home.

Conclusion :

Checking your blood pressure is a quick and painless way to monitor your health. It is important to know the numbers to be on the lookout for high blood pressure, as low levels are seldom dangerous. High blood pressure has no apparent symptoms, so it’s important to understand the readings. Hypertension can cause such health complications as cardiac arrest, cardiac failure, and kidney failure. Knowing the numbers could be one of the most important things you can do for your or a loved one’s health.