Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of arteries. When the doctor measures your blood pressure, the results are given in two numbers. The first number, called systolic blood pressure, is the pressure caused by your heart contracting and pushing out blood. The second number, called diastolic blood pressure, is the pressure when your heart relaxes and fills with blood. Your blood pressure reading is usually given as the systolic blood pressure number over the diastolic blood pressure number, such as 138/72. Normal blood pressure for adults is defined as a systolic pressure of less than 120 and a diastolic pressure of less than 80. This is stated as 120/80.
"The implications and potential benefits of such healthier lifestyles could be great, particularly since about 22% of the adult population falls into the prehypertensive category," says Chobanian, who is also dean of the Boston University School of Medicine. "In fact, the blood pressure effects of weight reduction or adoption of the DASH eating plan can be comparable to those achieved with any single blood pressure medication."
When your heart contracts and squeezes blood out into your network of arteries, the pressure inside those blood vessels is at its highest. This is called systolic pressure and it’s the top number on your blood pressure reading. In between beats, the heart relaxes and the pressure drops. This is your diastolic blood pressure, and it’s the reading’s bottom number.
Recent research shows that lowering your blood pressure below these levels decreases your risk of heart attacks and all-cause mortality. That’s right—lowering your blood pressure has a direct impact on your life expectancy. In fact, a person with a systolic pressure of 135 has double the risk of heart disease as someone with a systolic pressure of 115. Same goes for a diastolic pressure of 85 instead of 75. 10 points might not seem like much, but every blood pressure increase has a big impact on your health.
Pregnant women with very high blood pressure (hypertension) can reduce their blood pressure with antihypertensive drugs, but the most effective antihypertensive drug during pregnancy is unknown. The aim of antihypertensive therapy is to lower blood pressure quickly but safely for both the mother and her baby, avoiding sudden drops in blood pressure that can cause dizziness or fetal distress.
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Hypertensive Crisis This is an occurrence of high blood pressure that requires medical attention. If you have a blood pressure reading of 180/120 mm Hg, wait five minutes and test again. If it is consistently this high, contact your doctor immediately. If blood pressure is higher than 180/120 mm Hg and you are experiencing chest pain, shortness of breath, back pain, numbness and weakness, change in vision, and difficulty speaking, you may have organ damage and should call 911. (4)

She'll inflate the cuff to a pressure higher than your systolic blood pressure, and it will tighten around your arm. Then she'll release it. As the cuff deflates, the first sound she hears through the stethoscope is the systolic blood pressure. It sounds like a whooshing noise. The point where this noise goes away marks the diastolic blood pressure.

SOURCES: The Journal of the American Medical Association, May 21, 2003. Aram Chobanian, MD, dean, Boston University School of Medicine and chair of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure. Claude Lenfant, MD, director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health. Edward Roccella, PhD, MPH, coordinator of the National High Blood Pressure Education Program at NHLBI. John Laragh, MD, Cardiovascular Hypertension Center at New York Hospital/Cornell University Medical Center and editor-in-chief of the American Journal of Hypertension. WebMD Medical News: "Diuretics Best for High Blood Pressure."


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Get outside for a walk or other exercise to help control high blood pressure. Maintain a healthy weight and choose foods that are natural and healthy. Eat more vegetables, fruits and grains and less meat to improve overall health. Avoid high-salt meals. If blood pressure medication has been prescribed, take it regularly as instructed. Do not go off the medication unless a doctor has told you to do so.
And remember: If you do a water fast, it’s critical to drink high-quality water. (Many Food Revolution members like the AquaTru water filter because it delivers high-quality water for a remarkably affordable price. Find out more and get a special discount here. If you order from this link, the AquaTru manufacturer will contribute a portion of the proceeds to support Food Revolution Network’s mission of healthy, ethical, sustainable food for everyone who eats.)
Unlike the smooth action of the hot tub pump, the human heart expands and contracts mightily each second or so, causing your blood pressure to be comparatively high one moment, and comparatively low in the next. That is why we need two measurements when checking your blood pressure: one at the moment when the pressure is highest (your systolic blood pressure), and one a moment later, when the pressure is lowest (your diastolic blood pressure).
"The implications and potential benefits of such healthier lifestyles could be great, particularly since about 22% of the adult population falls into the prehypertensive category," says Chobanian, who is also dean of the Boston University School of Medicine. "In fact, the blood pressure effects of weight reduction or adoption of the DASH eating plan can be comparable to those achieved with any single blood pressure medication."
Angiotensin II is a very potent chemical formed in the blood by ACE from, angiotensin I. When formed, angiotensin II causes the muscles surrounding blood vessels to contract, thus narrowing the vessels and increasing blood pressure. ACE inhibitors are medications that inhibit the activity of ACE which decreases the production of angiotensin II. As a result, these medications cause the blood vessels to enlarge or dilate, and this reduces blood pressure. This lower blood pressure makes it easier for the heart to pump blood and can improve the function of a failing heart. In addition, the progression of kidney disease due to high blood pressure or diabetes is slowed.

A sharp increase in blood pressure is not a normal symptom to experience. Many cases of strokes and death have been reported because of a sudden increase in the blood pressure,though individuals who have had normal blood pressure throughout their life are less likely to experience such symptoms. Unanticipated rise in blood pressure is an indication of an underlying heart condition, artery blockage or even a psychological stress. In either case, the after effects can be devastating, which is why a doctor must be consulted immediately.
According to the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association, the goal of blood pressure treatment is to attain a blood pressure reading that's less than 130/80 mmHg systolic and less than 80mmHg diastolic. In general, if you have hypertension, it is likely that you will need to be treated for the duration of your life to maintain this target blood pressure. 
*All medications have both common (generic) and brand names. The brand name is what a specific manufacturer calls the product (e.g., Tylenol®). The common name is the medical name for the medication (e.g., acetaminophen). A medication may have many brand names, but only one common name. This article lists medications by their common names. For information on a given medication, check our Drug Information database. For more information on brand names, speak with your doctor or pharmacist.
If your blood pressure reading is 180/120 or higher, wait about five minutes and retake your blood pressure. If you have two readings that are this high, but you aren’t having any other concerning symptoms such as chest pain, back pain, shortness of breath, change in vision, numbness/weakness, or difficulty speaking - you are experiencing hypertensive urgency.
The American Heart Association considers 120/80 to be a normal blood pressure reading. Unless you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure you may not realize anything is wrong so it is important to get tested each time you see your doctor, or more frequently if you have a family history of hypertension. Often, hypertension has no obvious symptoms, but it could be quietly causing damage and threatening your health. This condition overworks the heart and damages the walls of the blood vessels. If left untreated, it can lead to tears, ruptures, or increased plaque build-up in your heart, which increases your risk for heart failure, heart attack or stroke.

Because of the need for emergency care, it is important to recognize the early signs of malignant hypertension. The first giveaway is blood pressure of 180/120. You might have bleeding in the eyes due to rupture of the small blood vessels. Other malignant hypertension symptoms can include chest pain, dizziness, a headache, numbness in your extremities, and confusion.
Don’t get too excited. Turns out that dark chocolate (at least 50% to 70% cocoa) can give you a boost of a plant compound called flavanol. As with garlic, this antioxidant can raise your nitric oxide levels and widen blood vessels. That can make your blood pressure drop a notch. It goes without saying that a little bit of chocolate is all you need.
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