Understanding Your Blood Pressure

Your blood pressure is expressed in two numbers- one number on top and one on the bottom. The top number, better known as the systolic blood pressure, is the amount of pressure in your arteries when the heart contracts to push blood out to the rest of the body. The bottom number, or diastolic blood pressure, is the amount of pressure in your arteries when the heart is at rest. Together, these numbers are used to determine the health of your heart. The “mmHg” after the fraction means millimeters of mercury- the unit used to measure blood pressure.

*A diagnosis of high blood pressure must be confirmed with a medical professional. A doctor should also evaluate any unusually low blood pressure readings.

Depending on your blood pressure, you’ll fall into one of the categories above. Those with pre-hypertension are likely to develop high blood pressure unless lifestyle changes are made to control it. In Stage 1 Hypertension, doctors will likely prescribe lifestyle changes and consider adding blood pressure medication. With Stage 2 Hypertension, doctors will typically prescribe blood pressure medications and lifestyle changes.

*From the American Heart Association, if your BP is 180/110 mmHg or higher and you are NOT experiencing symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, back pain, numbness/weakness, changes in vision or difficulty speaking, wait about five minutes and take it again. If the reading is still at or above that level, call 911 and get help immediately.*

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