Blood Pressure Readings
When you go to the doctor…they take your blood pressure and then tell you what your Blood Pressure is….do you understand the numbers?
Systolic is the top number…the highest of the two. It measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats (when the heart muscle contracts).
Diastolic is the bottom…the lower of the two. It measures the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats (when the heart muscle is resting between beats and refilling with blood).
Your blood pressure rises with each heartbeat and falls when your heart relaxes between beats. While BP can change from minute to minute with changes in posture, exercise, stress or sleep, it should normally be less than 120/80 mm Hg (less than 120 systolic AND less than 80 diastolic) for an adult age 20 or over. A single high reading does not necessarily mean that you have high blood pressure. However, if readings stay at 140/90 mm Hg or above (systolic 140 or above OR diastolic 90 or above) over time, your doctor will likely want you to begin a treatment program. Such a program almost always includes lifestyle changes and often prescription medication for those with readings of 140/90 or higher.
You may ask which number is more important… top (systolic) or bottom (diastolic)? More attention is usually given to the top number (the systolic blood pressure) as a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease for people over 50 years old. In most people, systolic blood pressure rises steadily with age due to increasing stiffness of large arteries, long-term build-up of plaque, and increased incidence of cardiac and vascular disease.
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