Facts About Blood Pressure
Blood Pressure Readings
- A normal or healthy blood pressure reading is a systolic pressure of 120 or lower and a diastolic pressure of 80 or lower. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is defined as a systolic pressure higher than 140 and a diastolic pressure higher than 90. Pre-hypertension is defined by systolic readings between 120 and 139 and diastolic readings between 80 and 89. Low blood pressure, or hypotension, is defined by a systolic reading lower than 90 and a diastolic reading lower than 60.
- The unit of measurement for blood pressure is millimeters of mercury, expressed as mm Hg. A healthy mal blood pressure reading of 120 systolic and 80 diastolic is properly expressed as 120/80 mm Hg.
Taking Blood Pressure
- Taking a person's blood pressure is a simple and painless procedure that takes just a minute or two. To measure blood pressure, a cuff, called a sphygmomanometer, is tightly wrapped among the upper arm. A rubber valve and bulb are attached to the cuff, along with a pressure gauge to give the reading. To take the reading, a nurse or doctor will use the rubber bulb to inflate the cuff and a stethoscope will be placed over the brachial artery in the elbow. As the air is released from the cuff, the nurse or doctor will listen through the stethoscope for the sound of turbulent blood flow. The reading on the pressure gauge when the sound of the heart first beating is heard represents the systolic pressure. When the sound stops, the diastolic pressure is noted.
Factors Effecting Blood Pressure
- Several things can affect a blood pressure reading, including stress, smoking, pain and caffeine. Some people's blood pressure will rise simply because of the stress and nervousness of having a blood pressure reading taken, a condition called white-coat hypertension. In addition, some prescription and over-the-counter drugs can alter blood pressure. In evaluating patients for hypertension and hypotension, health-care professionals will often take a blood pressure reading at least twice, with readings at least five minutes apart.
- Hypertension is a serious medical condition that often has no signs or symptoms, earning it the nickname of "the silent killer." Several different types of prescription drugs are available, including beta blockers, thiazide diuretics, calcium channel blockers, renin inhibitors, angiostensin-converting enzyme inhibitors and angiotensin II receptor blockers. However, losing weight, eating a healthy diet low in salt and saturated fats and getting regular exercise can also help bring blood pressure into a healthy range. Many doctors will recommend a change in diet and exercise along with a prescription medication to help patients lower blood pressure.
- In many cases, people with mild hypotension will not have any symptoms. In these cases and, in people with mild hypotension, which is sometimes characterized by periods of dizziness upon standing, treatment may not be necessary. In some cases, medications such as fludrocortisone can be prescribed in an attempt to raise a person's blood pressure. A doctor also may recommend eating more salt and drinking more water to help raise blood pressure.