What is Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is a measure of the force that blood exerts on the walls of blood vessels. To move blood, which is a viscous liquid, through the body, the heart creates pressure by contracting and expanding.
Without adequate pressure, the movement of blood through the body would get impacted. This would deprive the various organs and tissues in the body of oxygen, nutrients, hormones, antibodies and white blood cells. At the same time, too much blood pressure is also detrimental to the body since it can damage the blood vessels and lead to complications like heart attacks or stroke.
How is Blood Pressure Measured?
Typically, blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mm Hg) and has two statistics:
For instance, if your blood pressure ranges between 120/80 or 120 over 80, it means the systolic pressure is 120 mm Hg and the diastolic pressure is 80 mm Hg. As per the range mentioned below, anything above 120/80 is considered as high blood pressure, whereas anything below this range is considered low blood pressure.
What do Your Blood Pressure Numbers Mean?
As you’ve already seen above, blood pressure is denoted using two numbers; for instance 120/80 or 120 over 80, which is the normal blood pressure for an average individual.
The first number is the systolic pressure, which is the pressure in your arteries when your heart muscle contracts or beats. The second number is the diastolic pressure, which is the pressure in your arteries between two contractions or beats.
Generally, more importance is given to the systolic pressure than the diastolic pressure. According to various medical studies, with every 20 mm Hg increase in the systolic pressure, the risk of death due to ischemic heart disease and stroke doubles.
However, the diastolic pressure is also equally important and doctors generally take that into account as well when assessing an individual.
Blood Pressure Ranges
Blood pressure readings are taken as 120/80 and read as - 120 over 80. The acceptable blood pressure ranges are as follows:
Normal: Less than 120/80
Elevated: Between 120-129/less than 80
Stage-1 High Blood Pressure: Between 130-139/80-89
Stage-2 High Blood Pressure: Above 140/90
Hypertension Crisis: Higher than 180/120
If your blood pressure is above the normal range, seek immediate medical attention. Further, let us understand each blood pressure range in detail.
Normal Blood Pressure
Blood pressure that’s less than 120/80 mm Hg is said to be normal. When your blood pressure is normal, no medical intervention is needed. It is best to continue or improve your existing lifestyle to manage it. Further, it is advised to maintain your weight to avoid hypertension and other weight-related health issues. Exercising regularly and eating balanced meals helps you maintain normal blood pressure and a healthy lifestyle.
Elevated Blood Pressure
Blood pressure between 120-129/less than 80 mm Hg is said to be elevated. While these readings are not categorised as high blood pressure, it is advisable to remain cautious since it is outside the normal range. There are high chances that this can turn into a high blood pressure situation in the near future, which can increase the risk of heart disease and stroke.
Doctors usually do not prescribe any medication for elevated blood pressure. However, adopting a healthy lifestyle and consuming a balanced diet is recommended. If you are under some kind of stress (related to work or family), it is advised to look for ways to release this tension. You can opt for yoga or exercise regularly to get your blood pressure under control.
What is the Function of Blood Pressure in the Body?
The primary function of blood pressure is to ensure that blood passes through the body’s circulatory system. It ensures that all the tissues and organs get freshly oxygenated blood from the heart and transports the deoxygenated blood back to the heart.
Blood pressure is usually at its highest at the aorta, which is very near the heart, and lowest at the ends of arteries. This difference in pressure is what makes the blood flow.
Blood pressure is extremely vital since without it, blood wouldn’t move through the body, causing all the tissues and organs to fail due to lack of oxygen and nutrients. However, high blood pressure is also very detrimental since it can lead to several complications like stroke or heart attacks.
Stage-1 Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
You will be diagnosed with stage-1 hypertension when your blood pressure is between 130-139/80-89 mm Hg. While you are not at any severe health risk just yet, it is advisable to get your blood pressure within the normal range gradually.
For this, doctors can suggest taking medication, following a healthy lifestyle, and exercising daily. A follow-up is needed in three to six months to check whether these lifestyle changes are working in your favour or not.
When older people suffer from stage-1 hypertension, they are likely to develop other health issues such as memory problems and dementia.
Stage-2 Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
Stage-2 hypertension is severe. It happens when your blood pressure is above 140/90 mm Hg. Your doctor will recommend one or more medications to manage your blood pressure. However, you should not solely depend on treatment when recovering from stage-2 hypertension. More emphasis should be given to lifestyle habits and necessary changes must be implemented as soon as possible.
When your blood pressure is higher than 180/120 mm Hg, it indicates hypertension crises. In other words, you are at risk of developing some serious health concerns. This blood pressure range requires immediate medical attention even if there are no accompanying symptoms.
Seek immediate medical help if you experience:
In some cases, high blood pressure readings can be temporary, i.e. it might return to normal on its own. Seek multiple readings to confirm hypertension crises. If the range is consistent, seek medical help as soon as possible.
What Leads to High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure is often associated with unhealthy lifestyle habits. These include, but are not limited to -
When high blood pressure is left unmanaged, it can increase your risk of developing several long-term health issues such as heart diseases and kidney problems.
What Leads to Low Blood Pressure?
Low blood pressure issues are rare. It can be genetic or can occur as a result of ageing. In some cases, it is a side-effect of certain medications or an underlying health condition such as dehydration. In pregnant women, low blood pressure is a temporary factor.
Doctors can recommend medication or change in diet to combat low blood pressure issues. Low blood pressure is usually one of the symptoms of some severe health issues. Treating the underlying condition can help manage blood pressure problems.
When to Check Blood Pressure?
Depending on which category you belong to, here is how often you need to check your blood pressure.
If your Blood Pressure is Normal
Although your blood pressure is normal, it is advisable to get it checked once in six months.
If your Blood Pressure is Elevated
Those with elevated blood pressure should get it checked every three to six months.
If you Have Stage-1 Hypertension
It is best to get your blood pressure checked every three months if you are suffering from stage-1 hypertension. Based on the results, your doctor might continue or make changes to the medications.
If you Have Stage-2 Hypertension
Get your blood pressure checked once a month if you have stage-2 hypertension. Moreover, prioritise lifestyle changes and take medication.
Checking Blood Pressure at Home
Those who need their blood pressure checked regularly can purchase an easy-to-use home blood pressure monitor. Ensure that the cuff fits properly as it can affect the blood pressure readings. On the other hand, you can also use a wrist blood pressure monitor too. However, this device is often not very accurate.
For accurate readings, it is best to get your blood pressure checked at your doctor’s office. Based on the results, they will be able to guide you towards recovery.
Preventive Measures to Manage Blood Pressure
Even with a normal blood pressure range, it is always best to take preventive measures beforehand. It further helps reduce your risk of developing hypertension, heart diseases, and stroke. Moreover, it is essential to note that as you grow older, preventive measures become all the more crucial.
Older citizens are likely to experience blood pressure-related health issues. Medical conditions such as diabetes and kidney diseases can accelerate your risk of developing hypertension. Hence, get in touch with a doctor and manage your blood pressure and overall health before the situation worsens.
Here are a few tips that can help you manage your blood pressure.
Cut Down on Salt
People with high blood pressure are advised to reduce their salt intake. While the recommended amount is 2,300 mg per day, people with hypertension might need to limit this amount to around 1,500 mg per day.
Reduce Caffeine Intake
People with blood pressure issues are also advised to reduce their caffeine intake. Many times, caffeine plays a vital role in blood pressure readings.
People suffering from high blood pressure are told to exercise daily to maintain a healthy blood pressure reading. So, engage in some physical activity for 30 minutes every day. Moreover, you can try some gentle yoga routines to keep your blood pressure under control.
Maintain Your Weight
If you are obese or overweight, you might be prone to high blood pressures. Therefore, doctors recommend maintaining a healthy weight. You can use a BMI calculator to check your weight category. Depending on the results, manage your diet and workout routine to maintain a healthy weight.
Blood pressure can fluctuate due to stress. Therefore, it is advised to manage your stress with activities such as yoga, meditation, and sports. Find some basic yoga sequences to lead a healthy life here.
Reduce Alcohol Intake and Quit Smoking
People with blood pressure issues are advised to reduce their alcohol intake or stop drinking altogether. Moreover, completely refrain from smoking. Both these habits are very harmful to your overall health.
Maintaining a normal blood pressure is imperative to avoid future health complications such as heart diseases and stroke. By following a combination of a healthy lifestyle and proper medication, you will be able to get your blood pressure under control.
Besides, know that health issues can arise at any time. It is best to keep yourself and your family covered with an adequate health insurance plan so that planned or unplanned medical expenses are not a burden on you.