Checking one’s blood pressure is a quick and painless procedure that can easily be done at home. However, many people are unable to read a blood pressure chart because they have no idea what the values mean. They are also unaware of what indicates low, normal and high blood pressure, as well as which value to pay more attention to base on their age. As confusing as it may seem, these are all quite easy to grasp.
Understanding the Values on a Blood Pressure Chart
Two things are recorded each time a blood pressure check is done. These are the systolic pressure and the diastolic pressure, both of which use the unit “mmHg” which stands for “millimeters of mercury”. Loosely speaking, systolic readings capture the heart at work, while diastolic readings measure the heart at rest. The former is more troublesome in persons 50 and above, while those below the age of 50 should pay more attention to the latter. Note however that both numbers are important, and both should be taken seriously.
What is Systolic Pressure?
Each blood pressure reading will show two numbers, the “systolic pressure” is the top number displayed. The term refers to the force of the blood in one’s arteries while the heart is beating, and this value is expected to rise as an individual gets older. Normal systolic readings are between 90 to 120 mmHg.
One of the concerning things about the systolic reading is that it can be high without the diastolic reading being high too. In fact, a large amount of adults suffer from a condition known as ISH, or “isolated systolic hypertension,” which occurs when only the top value is high. The main issue with ISH is that there are often no warning signs so an individual with it can go without showing any symptoms.
Unfortunately, this does not mean that ISH is harmless. It can actually increase the chances of heart attacks and strokes. Other possible conditions include (but are not limited to):
- Congestive heart failure
- Kidney damage
- Lost of sight
What is Diastolic Pressure?
The second of the two, or the bottom number, the diastolic pressure concerns the force of the blood in the arteries between beats while the heart is relaxing. Much like the systolic number, this number rises with age; however, it should start declining around the age of 55. Younger people with a high diastolic rate are viewed to have a higher risk of experiencing kidney failure, strokes and heart attacks. As a general rule, the higher the diastolic number is, the higher the risk of developing any of three conditions. Normal diastolic readings are 60 to 80 mmHg.
Identifying High Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is read as “systolic pressure over diastolic pressure” or written as “top value/bottom value”. A blood pressure chart provides details on what is considered normal for both the systolic and diastolic pressures along with two other ranges 1) prehypertension and 2) hypertension. “Hypertension” is the term used for “high blood pressure.”
A reading of 90/60 to 120/80 is seen as normal blood pressure in most cases, although, some factors will influence how a doctor views this. This includes age since infants and adults have different ranges that are considered normal. Also, it has been shown that what may not seem like the normal range can in fact be normal for an individual based on long term monitoring.
Prehypertension exists when persons are below the range noted for hypertension yet, they are outside of the normal range. This applies to individuals with a reading that falls anywhere from slightly above 120/80 mmHg to 139/89 mmHg. Persons in this range should work to move back into the normal rage and need to avoid going into hypertension as much as possible.
The range for hypertension is anything from 140/90 mmHg and up. Person in this band need to keep their blood pressure under control or risk serious complications. They are also likely to be on medication.
Symptoms of Hypertension
While ISH may not display any symptoms, regular hypertension does show some once the condition has reached a certain level. On a normal basis persons who are hypertensive are unlikely to notice the effects until their reading hits 180/110 mmHG. At this point they may experience dizziness, shortness of breath, abnormal heartbeats, persistent headaches (lasting days at a time), double or blurred vision, nausea, and drowsiness.
Causes of Hypertension
Having a high blood pressure reading at some point is quite common, the problem is some people experience the elevation, but it never goes away. Furthermore, around 95% of the people with this condition show no known cause. The condition is considered primary in all of these cases, with other conditions being seen as secondary or triggered by it. Doctors attribute the other 5% of cases to a primary condition that subsequently leads to hypertension; these can be any condition that affects the kidneys. Hormonal issues and any condition that forces the heart to work harder can also result in hypertension
Controlling One’s Blood Pressure
Blood pressure control becomes fairly easy with time. Persons on a regiment designed for this purpose are required to make lifestyle changes to promote proper health; they may also be required to combine lifestyle changes with medication if their pressure is out of control. Positive changes to make include dieting and exercise for those who are overweight, a weekly workout regime to maintain fitness even for those who are within a healthy weight range, reducing sugar and salt intake, minimizing alcohol, quitting smoking, and making smarter food choices overall.
A part of controlling one’s pressure is knowing what it is. This is why Individuals displaying prehypertension are recommended to see their doctors at least once a year while those who are hypertensive should establish a visiting schedule with their doctor based on the attention their condition needs. Everyone is also encouraged to do self-checks between visits and to compare these with their doctors’ readings to see how their pressure fluctuates over time.
Checking One’s Pressure at Home
Because the procedure is relatively effortless, just about anyone can monitor their pressure at home. Devices range from standard ones that simply show the basic blood pressure reading, to others that show the heart rate as well. They can also come with sophisticated features that include tracking the reading whether on the device or by using computer software that is often provided on a disc.
Regardless of how basic it may be, the average blood pressure device comes with details on how it should be used, and what the blood pressure chart means. These machines also ideally come with detailed instructions on how to perform the checks. Some of the things to note before taking a reading are:
- One’s blood pressure is constantly rising and falling throughout the day, so having a high reading at a particular time does not mean one has hypertension.
- Taking one’s pressure immediately after rigorous activities, a stressful situation, or a scare is likely to result in a high reading. Instead, the heart should be allowed to rest for at least 30 minutes after any exciting event or physical activity.
- The above wait period also applies to caffeine along with any food or medication that can cause the heart to race.
- The check must be done when the individual is sitting comfortably with the feet flat on the ground and arm rested on an even surface such as a table.
- The area that goes around the arm is called a cuff, using a cuff that is too small can result in an inaccurate reading. This is why some doctors use the cuff around the wrists of overweight persons, or when checking those with blood pressure that is so high that the cuff may start to open long before the reading is complete due to the excess force.
Anyone who fears he or she may be having trouble with blood pressure control should speak to a doctor immediately. They are also advised to look into making changes that can help them reduce stress and anxiety if they find that they experience these often. While those in stressful jobs may not have the option of finding new employment, they are urged to find ways to manage the stress of their daily tasks. A thorough checkup and a full consultation should be able to shed some light on the best route to take, and persons are reminded to ensure that they understand how to read a blood pressure chart before they end the appointment.