Blood pressure: know your numbers
We all know that blood pressure is important. After all, we are constantly told that high blood pressure in particular can increase our risk of heart disease, kidney disease and stroke. The only thing is – blood pressure can be rather confusing.
|Image credit: rosmary / Flickr.com|
When we have our blood pressure taken we are given one number “over” another as our result, but what do these figures actually mean?
Understanding Blood Pressure: What is Normal Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is a measure of the strength of your blood as it travels around your body, pushing against your blood vessels. It’s widely publicised that high and low blood pressure can induce health problems, but what about healthy blood pressure? Do you know what your blood pressure reading should be?
What is the ideal blood pressure?
Blood pressure readings are calculated using one number ‘over’ another: systolic blood pressure over diastolic. The blood pressure monitor shows measurements in millimetres of mercury, appearing as ‘mmHg’.
The normal blood pressure range for adults comes in between 90/60mmHg and 120/80mmHg. This means that anything below 90/60mmHg mark constitutes low blood pressure, while anything above 120/80mmHg indicates high blood pressure.
Knowing these numbers can help make you more aware of your health, and may help you to stay on top of your blood pressure.
Systolic blood pressure
When it comes to understanding blood pressure, it can help to take a more in-depth look at the numbers that make up the final measurement.
The first number in blood pressure readings is your body’s systolic blood pressure. It measures the pressure on your arteries, caused by the contractions of your beating heart as it pushes blood around your body. 120 is the ideal systolic blood pressure measurement, while anything below that indicates low blood pressure. A reading between 120 and 140 could be a danger sign, while anything more than 140 indicates real cause for concern.
Diastolic blood pressure
The second number in a blood pressure measurement is your diastolic blood pressure, which indicates the pressure in your arteries between heartbeats.
A normal diastolic blood pressure usually comes in at around 80 or less, while a reading between 80 and 89 is considered normal, but higher than ideal. Repeated blood pressure readings of 90 or higher are where cause for concern may start, as they can be indicative of high blood pressure.
High blood pressure
High blood pressure is also known as hypertension, and at its worst, could put strain on your blood vessels, heart, brain and kidneys. Persistently high blood pressure may, in the worst case scenario, lead to serious health problems, including heart disease, heart attacks and strokes.
However, high blood pressure can be a largely symptomless problem, with the occasional exception of frequent headaches. This means that prevention could be better than cure: proactively avoiding some of the main causes of high blood pressure.
Low blood pressure
While it may sound scary, low blood pressure (also known as hypotension) may not always be a cause for concern. If you’re suffering from low blood pressure you may experience a few mildly unpleasant symptoms, including dizziness, light-headedness and nausea. However, you can help these pass by doing things like standing up slowly, factoring more salt into your diet and staying hydrated. Why not find out more about low blood pressure?
Did you know Benenden members have immediate access to GP advice 24/7 either at the end of the phone or through a video consultancy? Find out more about our GP 24/7 line here.