Blood pressure tests are a common part of annual physicals and wellness exams — so common, it’s easy to take them for granted. But the reason why these tests are performed so frequently is because they can tell your doctor a lot about your health. And once you know how to read your test, they’ll tell you a lot, too.
At his Lakeland, Florida, practice, Sergio B. Seoane, MD, uses blood pressure test readings to monitor for hypertension and other potential problems, so they can be treated early. Here’s what he wants you to know about your blood pressure reading and what those numbers really mean.
Blood pressure is actually just what it sounds like: the pressure or force of your blood as it moves through your circulatory system. The pressure reflects the pumping action of your heart, the stiffness of your vessels, and how well your circulatory system is delivering blood to your organs and tissues.
Since your blood delivers oxygen and nutrients to your entire body, it’s tempting to think that more pressure is a good thing — but that’s not how it works. There’s an ideal range for your blood pressure — a range associated with optimal health — and regular blood pressure readings help us determine if your pressure is within that range or not.
High blood pressure (hypertension) is very common, and unless it’s managed, it can have serious medical consequences. Low blood pressure (hypotension) is uncommon, and often associated with an underlying disease or condition, like a heart attack or a severe infection or allergic reaction.
Your blood pressure can change a lot during your lifetime, affected by factors like your age, weight, physical activity, and health conditions. That’s why it’s important to have your blood pressure measured regularly, so we can spot even small changes early on.
Like other types of pressure readings (barometric pressure, for instance), blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury or mmHg. Your blood pressure reading has two numbers, and your reading is usually given as the first number “over” the second number.
The first number is called your systolic pressure, and it’s the pressure of your blood when your heart is beating. The second number is called your diastolic pressure, and it’s the pressure of your blood in between beats when your heart is at rest. You use this reading to determine if your blood pressure is high or low, based on medical guidelines.
Under the current blood pressure guidelines, a normal blood pressure is under 120/80 mmHg, while elevated pressure includes measurements with systolic pressures between 120-129 mmHg and diastolic pressures of under 80 mmHg.
High blood pressure has two stages. The first stage includes people with either a systolic pressure between 130-139 mmHg or a diastolic pressure between 80-89 mmHg. The second stage includes people with a systolic pressure of greater than 140 mmHg or a diastolic pressure of 90 mmHg or more.
Hypertension is a common medical problem affecting almost half of all American adults. If you have high blood pressure, you’re at risk of developing several serious problems, including:
These problems happen because the increased force of blood can damage your organs and blood vessels, especially when hypertension isn’t managed properly. Worldwide, about 13% of all deaths are related to high blood pressure.
If you have high blood pressure or even elevated blood pressure, our team will help you develop a plan to manage it. Depending on your needs, that may include lifestyle changes, like diet, exercise, and weight loss when needed, or medication.
As noted earlier, hypotension is much less common than hypertension. If your blood pressure reading shows you have hypotension, our team will look for possible causes, like infections or heart problems, so they can be treated.
Regular blood pressure readings are a simple, quick, painless way to keep track of your health. If you have a blood pressure issue, we can help you manage it. To learn more, call 863-644-2204 or book an appointment online with Dr. Seoane today.