Healthcare professionals use a stethoscope and a manual sphygmomanometer to measure your blood pressure. Typically they take the reading above your elbow. The sphygmomanometer has a bladder, cuff, bulb, and a gauge. When the bulb is pumped it inflates the bladder inside the cuff, which is wrapped around your arm. This inflation will stop the blood flow in your arteries. The stethoscope is used to listen for sound of the heartbeat, and no sound indicates that there is no flow. As the pressure is released from the bladder, you will hear the sound of the blood flowing again. That point becomes systolic reading. The diastolic reading is when you hear no sound again, which means that the blood flow is back to normal.
Your blood pressure is said to be “high” when either your systolic blood pressure is 140 or above, or your diastolic blood pressure is 90 or above, or both. So if your blood pressure is found to be 142/88 (systolic = 142, diastolic = 88), you are diagnosed as having high blood pressure, according to current definitions. The same would be true if your blood pressure was found to be 135/92, or 152/95. In each case, either the systolic is high, or the diastolic is high, or both. Any of these findings result in a diagnosis of high blood pressure.
An adult's blood pressure level should be below 140/90. The American Heart Association states that "One in three adults in the U.S. has high blood pressure. About 30 percent of them don't know they have it." About 73 million Americans have high blood pressure. It is crucial to get regular checkups with a doctor to monitor blood pressure levels. Keep a log of all reports of blood pressure levels and alert the doctor if your blood pressure changes suddenly.
"Blood pressure guidelines are not updated at regular intervals. Instead, they are changed when sufficient new evidence suggests the old ones weren't accurate or relevant anymore," says Dr. Paul Conlin, an endocrinologist with Harvard-affiliated VA Boston Healthcare System and Brigham and Women's Hospital. "The goal now with the new guidelines is to help people address high blood pressure — and the problems that may accompany it like heart attack and stroke — much earlier."
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.
Obesity: As body weight increases, the blood pressure rises. Obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30 kg/m. A BMI of 25-30 kg/m is considered overweight (BMI=weight in pounds x 703/ height in inches). Being overweight increases the risk of high blood pressure. Healthcare professionals recommend that all individuals who are obese and have high blood pressure lose weight until they are within 15% of their healthy body weight.
Digital blood pressure readings have two numbers – systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure. The top number is your systolic blood pressure (the highest pressure when your heart beats and pushes blood around your body), and the bottom number is your diastolic blood pressure (the lowest pressure between heart beats). A blood pressure reading is usually these two numbers over each other – like 120/80.
“Beware of the American Heart Association’s (AHA) 'Salty Six' — six popular foods that can add high levels of sodium to your diet,” says Rachel Johnson, PhD, a professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont in Burlington and the former chair of the AHA’s nutrition committee. The Salty Six include breads and rolls, cold cuts and cured meats, sandwiches, pizza, soup, and chicken.
However, sometimes a high reading can occur temporarily and then your numbers will return to normal. If your blood pressure measures at this level, your doctor will likely take a second reading after a few minutes have passed. A second high reading indicates that you’ll need treatment either as soon as possible or immediately depending on whether or not you have any of the symptoms described above.
The brain requires unobstructed blood flow to nourish its many functions. Very high, sustained blood pressure will eventually cause blood vessels to weaken. Over time these weaken vessels can break, and blood will leak into the brain. The area of the brain that is being fed by these broken vessels start to die, and this will cause a stroke. Additionally, if a blot clot blocks a narrowed artery, blood ceases to flow and a stroke will occur.
You shouldn't ignore the fact that you may have elevated blood pressure readings in the doctor's office but not other places like a health fair, on a home monitor or a drugstore blood pressure machine. This "white-coat hypertension," as it's known, shouldn't be disregarded. A study found that people with this sign of raised blood pressure under stress showed early signs of stiff arteries and an overworked heart that could lead to higher blood pressure later on.
For infants, toddlers, and pre-adolescent aged children, doctors follow separate guidelines and standards to define high blood pressure. Average readings tend to be lower at a younger age and increase as you grow older . During late adolescence (around 17-19 yrs old) doctors typically begin to follow the standard adult guidelines for high blood pressure.
What these scientists found was that while drug treatments for mild hypertension may be effective at lowering blood pressure, they were not effective in reducing overall mortality. Put more bluntly, hypertension patients in these studies died at about the same rate whether they took medication or not. These findings reaffirm an important health principle: Treating the symptoms of disease is not the same thing as causing health.
Let your doctor know if your treatment isn’t helping your blood pressure. You may have high blood pressure that is independent of an underlying medical condition. This type of high blood pressure is the most common type and is known as essential hypertension. Patients with essential hypertension will likely require lifelong medication to control it.
As mentioned earlier, blood pressure increases with age, beginning from infancy to older adulthood. Since most healthy babies and children are typically not at risk for blood pressure problems, most doctors do not check their blood pressure routinely. But, the normal BP range for all adults, regardless of their age, is considered to be lesser than 120/80.
Everything you need to know about hypertension Hypertension or high blood pressure can lead to heart disease, stroke, and death and is a major global health concern. A range of risk factors may increase the chances of a person developing hypertension, but can it be prevented? Read on to find out what causes hypertension, its symptoms, types, and how to prevent it. Read now