Blood pressure also delivers white blood cells and antibodies for your immunity, and hormones such as insulin. It also picks up toxic waste products from metabolism, including carbon dioxide from breathing, and the toxins that clear through your liver and kidneys.
2 Numbers = Your Blood Pressure Reading
A blood pressure reading is taken either electronically or on an analogue dial and is given in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). The reading shows the pressure it takes to move mercury round a tube against gravity. Your blood pressure reading has two numbers. The higher number, your systolic pressure, is taken first. The diastolic number is taken second.
- Systolic (the top number on a blood pressure reading): measures the pressure in your arteries when the heart contracts – the force of your blood as it moves away from your heart through your arteries to the rest of your body. A normal systolic pressure number is considered to be below 120.
- Diastolic (the bottom number on a blood pressure reading): measures the pressure on the arteries when the heart rests between beats. This resting period is the time when the heart fills with blood that provides oxygen. A normal diastolic pressure is considered to be lower than 80.
How Often Should You Check Your Blood Pressure?
- Normal: If your blood pressure is normal (less than 120/80), get it checked every year or more frequently as your doctor suggests.
- Elevated: If your blood pressure is elevated — systolic blood pressure between 120 and 129 or diastolic blood pressure of less than 80 — your doctor will probably want to check it every 3-6 months.
- Stage 1 hypertension: 130-139 over 89-90 — the doctor might suggest lifestyle changes and see you again in 3-6 months. Or he could tell you to make the changes and give you medication, then recheck your condition in a month. It depends on what other health conditions or risk factors you have.
- Stage 2 hypertension: 140/90 or higher – you will likely get medication. You’ll also be asked to make lifestyle changes and see the doctor again in a month. Even if your blood pressure is high, you probably won’t have symptoms. That’s why it’s called the “silent killer.” The first symptom of untreated high blood pressure may be a heart attack, stroke, or kidney damage.
Lifestyle Modifications for High Blood Pressure
If your readings are not in the normal range, your doctor may recommend several lifestyle changes to see if you can bring your numbers into the below 120/80 Hg range:
- Eat healthy foods. Choose fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy foods. Eat less saturated fat and total fat.
- Quit smoking. You should also try to avoid secondhand smoke.
- Lose weight. If you’re overweight, losing even 5 pounds can lower your blood pressure.
- Exercise regularly. Regular physical activity can help lower your blood pressure and keep your weight under control. Strive for at least 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week.
- Limit alcohol. Even if you’re healthy, alcohol can raise your blood pressure. If you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation — up to one drink a day for women and everyone over age 65, and two drinks a day for men
- American Heart Association. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/High-Blood-Pressure-or-Hypertension_UCM_002020_SubHomePage.jsp. Accessed on January 2, 2018.
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/high-blood-pressure. Accessed on January 2, 2018.