What is Blood Pressure?
Blood Pressure is a measurement of the blood’s force (called “pressure”) on the walls of your arteries in your body. A Blood Pressure reading (“BP”) is taken as two measurements: One is when blood pressure is at its highest measurement reading called the “systolic” pressure, and the other is the lower measurement called the “diastolic” pressure (more below). A Blood Pressure measurement is recorded with the systolic pressure first, followed by the diastolic pressure (i.e. “124/72”) . Medical personnel always take your Blood Pressure with a cuff that wraps around your upper arm. However, wrist cuffs have become popular with people who want to take their own blood pressure readings – while handy and very portable, they aren’t quite as accurate and tend to read higher measurements.
Know your Blood Pressure
Select where your BP falls to understand more about your blood pressure and what you can do to improve it.
Healthy and Unhealthy Blood Pressure ranges
Learn what’s considered normal, as recommended by the American Heart Association. See the chart below from the American Heart Association:
Note: DO NOT self diagnose! A diagnosis of high blood pressure must be confirmed with a medical professional. A doctor should also evaluate any unusually low blood pressure readings.
Blood Pressure Categories
The five blood pressure ranges as recognized by the American Heart Association are:
Blood pressure numbers of less than 120/80 mm Hg are considered within the normal range. If your results fall into this category, stick with heart-healthy habits like following a balanced diet and getting regular exercise.
Elevated blood pressure is when readings consistently range from 120-129 systolic and less than 80 mm Hg diastolic. People with elevated blood pressure are likely to develop high blood pressure unless steps are taken to control the condition.
Hypertension Stage 1
Hypertension Stage 1 is when blood pressure consistently ranges from 130-139 systolic or 80-89 mm Hg diastolic. At this stage of high blood pressure, doctors are likely to prescribe lifestyle changes and may consider adding blood pressure medication based on your risk of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD), such as heart attack or stroke.
Hypertension Stage 2
Hypertension Stage 2 is when blood pressure consistently ranges at 140/90 mm Hg or higher. At this stage of high blood pressure, doctors are likely to prescribe a combination of blood pressure medications and lifestyle changes.
This stage of high blood pressure requires medical attention. If your blood pressure readings suddenly exceed 180/120 mm Hg, wait five minutes and then test your blood pressure again. If your readings are still unusually high, contact your doctor immediately. You could be experiencing a hypertensive crisis. If you are experiencing signs such as chest pain, shortness of breath, back pain, numbness/weakness, change in vision or difficulty speaking, do not wait – Call 911.
Your Blood Pressure numbers and what they mean
Your blood pressure is recorded as two numbers:
- Systolic blood pressure (the first number) – indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls when the heart beats.
- Diastolic blood pressure (the second number) – indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls while the heart is resting between beats.
Which number is more important?
Typically, more attention is given to systolic blood pressure (the first number) as a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease for people over 50. In most people, systolic blood pressure rises steadily with age due to the increasing stiffness of large arteries, long-term buildup of plaque and an increased incidence of cardiac and vascular disease.
However, either an elevated systolic or an elevated diastolic blood pressure reading may be used to make a diagnosis of high blood pressure. According to recent studies, the risk of death from ischemic heart disease and stroke doubles with every 20 mm Hg systolic or 10 mm Hg diastolic increase among people from age 40 to 89