Understanding Blood Pressure

Your Hypertension Risk and What Blood Pressure Readings Mean

doctor checking man's blood pressure
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When you go to your doctor for your annual physical, in addition to your vital signs, your doctor will measure your blood pressure. You've surely experienced the feeling of having a blood pressure meter strapped to your arm, but do you know what the readings mean? And what is a normal blood pressure for men? This primer will help you learn more about blood pressure and your risk for high blood pressure.

What Is Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure is the pressure of the circulating blood against the walls of the arteries, the veins and the chambers of the heart. Blood pressure results from two forces. One created by the heart as it pumps blood into the arteries through the circulatory system. The other is the force of the arteries as they resist the blood flow.

Blood pressure, usually measured by an instrument called a sphygmomanometer is expressed in two figures. The systolic pressure is measured when your heart is contracting, and the diastolic pressure is measured when the heart is relaxed.

What Is a Healthy Blood Pressure?

The blood pressure in the large artery of the heart, the aorta, and the other large arteries of a healthy adult is usually 120 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) during the contraction of the heart, and 80 mm Hg during relaxation of the heart. For adults, a normal reading can be anywhere from 120/70 to 140/90.

Readings that are consistently 140/90 or above are considered high and would indicate the need for intervention. When your readings are consistently high, you will be diagnosed with hypertension.

This guide can help you determine if your blood pressure readings are within the healthy range or not:

  • High normal blood pressure: between 120/80 and 140/90.
  • High blood pressure (hypertension): 140/90 or above.
  • Very high blood pressure (hypertension): 180/110 or above

Keep in mind that your blood pressure changes to meet your body's various needs, so it is normal for blood pressure readings to vary throughout the day. In addition, it is normal for blood pressure to increase during exercise and decreasing during sleep. Increased stress on the day of getting your blood pressure checked can also give a falsely high reading, which is something that happens to many people when they are experiencing the stress of a doctor's visit.

Hypertension Risk Factors

If your blood pressure remains high it can lead to serious problems like a heart attack, stroke, heart failure or kidney disease. The risk factors for having high blood pressure include:

High blood pressure is more common in people over the age of 50 years.

Complications of High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure usually does not give warning signs, and you can have high blood pressure and feel perfectly well. Because of this, it is sometimes called a "silent killer."

However, if left undetected and untreated, high blood pressure can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and other very serious health issues.

Monitoring Your Blood Pressure

Getting your blood pressure checked regularly is the best way to ensure that your numbers are where they should be. The only way to find out if your blood pressure is high is to have it checked regularly by a health professional. You can also check it yourself, as blood pressure monitors are fairly easy to use.

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