Getting to Grips with Your Blood Pressure: Readings Explained
Blood pressure, in its most simple terms, refers to the force that your heart exerts in order to pump blood around the body. It varies continually throughout the day, depending on a number of factors – most notably, whether you’re at rest or in a state of exertion.
Both high and low blood pressure can have implications when it comes to your health, so it’s important to understand your blood pressure readings, and know how to improve it, if required.
Blood Pressure Testing: How is it Measured?
Your blood pressure test actually consists of two measurements, not one. The first measures the level of pressure when your heart pumps blood through the arteries and around the body. This reading, which measures systolic pressure, is when your heart is working at its hardest, and the pressure is at its highest.
The other reading is the level of pressure when the heart is at rest, between pumps. This is when the pressure is at its lowest and is referred to as diastolic pressure.
As a result, your reading will always feature two numbers, not one. Your blood pressure is measured in mmHg, which is millimetres of mercury, and the systolic, or higher pressure reading is always first, followed by the diastolic, or lower reading.
What is ‘Normal’?
An ideal systolic blood pressure is 120 or below, though too far below could indicate low blood pressure, which is also a problem. If your systolic reading falls from 120 to 139, this means that you are in the ‘borderline’ category, and that your blood pressure is higher than desirable.
If, however, your reading is 140 or higher, this is considered to be hypertension, or clinically high blood pressure.
A diastolic blood pressure result of 80 is considered normal. If it’s between 80 and 89, it is higher than ideal; if it is 90 or higher, again, this is a sign of hypertension.
So, for example, if you have a blood pressure reading of 120/80, this indicates that your blood pressure is perfectly normal. If you have a reading of 140/90, you’re recognised as having hypertension, which can increase your risk of heart disease and other related conditions.
Home Monitoring or Doctor’s Surgery: Which is Better?
Most people, when they want to have their blood pressure checked, visit their GP. However, there are a wide range of home blood pressure monitors available to buy, which can prove useful to those who want to keep tabs on their health from the comfort of their own home.
Indeed, according to recent research undertaken at the University of Leuven in Belgium, home blood pressure monitors are particularly useful for patients who have slightly elevated blood pressure, as it enables easier and more accurate assessment of the condition.
Know the Variables
Of course, when measuring your blood pressure, it’s important to be aware of the variables affecting it. Your blood pressure may vary considerably throughout the day, and this is especially important to bear in mind if you’re measuring your blood pressure using a home testing kit. Age, fitness and pre-existing medical conditions can affect the results, as can stress, levels of activity and lack of sleep.
If you’re concerned about your blood pressure, it’s important to arrange to speak with your GP.