What do The Blood Pressure Numbers Mean?
Blood pressure numbers are expressed as a fraction of systolic (top) and diastolic (bottom) values. It is an indicator of the force exerted by the blood on the walls of blood vessels (arteries). Blood pressure is closely linked to the amount of effort one’s heart has to make to pump blood throughout the body. It is usually expressed in millimeters of mercury i.e. mm Hg, a standard unit for expressing various types of pressure including air pressure.
Before you can understand what hypertension or hypotension is, you need to understand the two types of pressure which contribute to the final ratio that is commonly understood as the blood pressure:
What Does The Systolic Blood Pressure Number Mean?
Systolic pressure refers to the force experienced by the arteries when the heart contracts (once in every heartbeat) so that blood is pumped through the vessels to the entire body. The value 120 mm Hg or lower is considered to be normal systolic pressure.
When your systolic blood pressure enters the range of 120 – 139, this is considered prehypertension meaning that you are on the verge of developing high blood pressure and are at a greater risk of getting heart disease than those with a systolic BP below 120. When this number exceeds 140, this means that the person is suffering from hypertension or high blood pressure.
What Does The Diastolic Blood Pressure Number Mean?
Diastolic pressure refers to the pressure experienced by the blood vessels when the heart relaxes during each beat. 80 mm Hg is considered to be a typical value for systolic blood pressure.
Those who have a diastolic blood pressure between 80 and 89 have prehypertension whereas those with a value of 90 or higher suffer from high blood pressure.
What is The AHA Recommendation for Healthy Blood Pressure?
Normal Blood Pressure
Your blood pressure is considered normal according to the standards of the American Heart Association when both the systolic and diastolic values are in the ‘normal’ range. This means that the optimum blood pressure would be 120/80 mm Hg or anything lower than this.
Abnormal Blood Pressure
If your systolic pressure goes into the range of 140-159 or your diastolic pressure enters the range of 90-99, you are suffering from stage 1 of hypertension. Note that either of these two pressures going into these ranges is sufficient for this diagnosis but, according to the AHA, only when the problematic pressure remains in this range for a considerable amount of time.
When your systolic BP exceeds 160 or diastolic goes beyond 100, you are suffering from the second stage of hypertension where you are required to make changes to your lifestyle that promote health – weight loss*, better diet, exercise – as well as medications to keep your BP in check.
If your blood pressure goes over 180/110 mm HG or either one of the values exceed this threshold, you are in the danger zone, referred to as “hypertensive crisis” by the American Heart Association. At this point, you require emergency medical assistance in order to protect you from suffering from a life threatening heart attack or stroke.
Summary of healthy/unhealthy BP range according to AHA:
in mm Hg
in mm Hg
|Normal||below 120||and||below 80||Prehypertension||120 to 139||or||80 to 89|
|Stage One Hypertension||140 to 159||or||90 to 99|
|Stage Two Hypertension||160 or above||or||100 or above|
(Emergency medical support needed)
|above 180||or||above 110|
Proactive Blood Pressure Maintenance
According to the American Heart Association, having a normal blood pressure should not be a reason to become complacent. Those who have healthy BP values should take preemptive measures so that they can maintain their normal blood pressure and stay clear of any risk of developing hypertension and the heart conditions associated with it. As you grow old, it becomes even more crucial that you keep your blood pressure in check since the arteries harden naturally with age. According to the AHA, most people experience a raise in systolic BP once they are past the 50 year mark which is why they should focus on staying lean and fit by observing a healthy diet and working out regularly.
The advice most physicians and heart specialists give regarding blood pressure is constant vigilance, especially if you’re over 50. You can use commercially available blood pressure monitors at home which are sophisticated enough to keep track of your readings and warn you when there is an abnormal trend, or you can visit your doctor regularly in order to make sure that your blood pressure is in the healthy range – in fact, combining both these tactics will be optimal. If you’re below 50 years of age, you should still adopt a healthy lifestyle in order to ensure that your blood pressure doesn’t cause problems for you as you grow old.