Blood pressure usually varies throughout the day, depending on the position of the body, breathing rhythm, physical condition, medications you take, stress level, what you eat and drink, and even on the time of the day. This indicates a normal active life. BP is usually lowest at night while sleeping and rises sharply on waking.
What is Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is defined as the pressure of the blood in the circulatory system of the body. It is a measure of the force with which the blood pushes against your arteries as it circulates in your body.
Blood pressure is not constant, it rises and falls naturally during the day. However, if it stays too high, over an extended period of time it can lead to health problems. It is closely related to the force and rate of the heartbeat and the diameter and elasticity of the arterial walls.
Normal blood pressure is vital to a healthy life as –
- Blood delivers oxygen, nutrients, white blood cells, antibodies and even hormones like insulin through our arteries to all tissues and organs.
- Blood picks up toxic waste such as carbon dioxide from our lungs and other toxins cleared by our liver and kidneys.
This cannot be accomplished without blood pressure.
However, your bp can become dangerously high, as well as dangerously low.
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Pressure in the blood is created by your heart when it pumps the blood through the blood vessels. Without it, the blood will be unable to course through our entire body thus depriving it of oxygen.
Healthy arteries are elastic by nature. And they can adapt by stretching when the pressure varies occasionally on the higher side.
But what happens when your bp is high constantly for a longer period of time say a couple of months? It can damage your arteries and other organs. So for your arteries & other organs to stay healthy, it’s important that your blood pressure is within a healthy range.
Blood Pressure Chart
Use the blood pressure chart (BP Chart) below to see what your numbers mean. This bp chart is suitable for all adults of any age. Also, note the level for high blood pressure does not change with age.
Blood pressure is measured in “millimeters of mercury” (mm Hg) and is written as two separate numbers, like this:
The top number is your systolic pressure. (The highest pressure when your heart muscles squeeze and pump out blood.)
The bottom one is your diastolic pressure. (The lowest pressure when your heart muscles relax between beats.)
The chart below shows ranges of low, high and normal blood pressure readings.
|Systolic (top num)|
|Diastolic (bottom num)|
|Blood pressure severity|
|90 or below||AND||60 or below||Hypotension (Low BP)|
|91 to 119||AND||61 to 79||Normal BP|
|Between 120 & 129||AND||Below 80||Elevated BP|
|Between 130 & 139||OR||Between 80 & 89||Stage 1 hypertension|
|140 or higher||OR||90 or higher||Stage 2 hypertension (HBP)|
|Higher than 180||AND/|
|Higher than 120||Hypertensive crisis.
Call the emergency room.
- If your bp is 90 over 60 (90/60 mm Hg) or less: You may have low blood pressure.
- More than 90 over 60 (90/60) and less than 120 over 80 (120/80): Your blood pressure reading is normal and healthy.
- More than 120 over 80 and less than 140 over 90 (120/80 – 140/90): You have a pre-hypertension or a stage 1 high blood pressure. Doctors may recommend a healthy lifestyle and diet changes to correct it while suggesting frequent blood pressure checks.
- 140 over 90 (140/90) or higher (over a number of weeks): You may have high blood pressure or stage 2 hypertension. After testing repeatedly for an extended period of time if the blood pressure is found elevated you will be prescribed medication to control it.
Normal Blood Pressure Range
More than 90 over 60 (90/60) and less than 120 over 80 (120/80): According to the American Heart Association, this bp reading is considered normal blood pressure for men and women.
If your systolic/diastolic reading is less than 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), then it is normal and indicates good health and low chances of stroke and other cardiovascular problems such as heart disease.
If your systolic pressure is between 120 and 139 mm Hg and your diastolic pressure is between 80 and 89 mm Hg then it is considered elevated, however, it is not treated with medications. This elevated blood pressure is also called stage 1 hypertension.
The doctor may recommend lifestyle changes and ask you to regularly get your blood pressure tested to monitor it for any further changes.
High Blood Pressure
High bp is called hypertension.
If your systolic/diastolic readings are consistently more than 140/90 mm Hg over a number of weeks, then you probably have HBP or hypertension.
If you have hypertension, then this higher pressure puts extra strain on your heart and blood vessels.
According to the CDC 1 of 3 U.S. adults (75 million people ~approx) have hypertension. (1) However, most don’t notice it – which means that over time it can damage blood vessels. Having blood pressure that is always too high increases your risk to have a stroke, a heart attack, or kidney problems. The higher your blood pressure, the greater your risk of developing these medical conditions. (2)
HBP is also closely linked to some forms of dementia.
Low Blood Pressure
Low bp is called hypotension.
A systolic pressure reading lower than 90 millimetres of mercury (mm Hg) and a diastolic reading of less than 60 mm Hg for the bottom number (diastolic) is generally considered low blood pressure. (3)
The causes of low hypotension can vary from dehydration to surgical disorders to serious medical conditions. It’s important to find out what’s causing your low bp so that it can be treated.
While bp readings on the lower side is desirable, one must be wary of any sudden drop in blood pressure.
Also while there are no specific symptoms, an abnormally low blood pressure (hypotension) can cause dizziness and fainting.
In severe cases, hypotension can even be life-threatening.
Risk Factors & Causes
A number of factors and variables can put you at a greater risk of developing hypertension. Understanding these risk factors can help you be more aware of how likely you are to develop blood pressure issues. Some factors that may contribute are –
- Being overweight or obese,
- Having too much salt (sodium) in your diet,
- Having too little potassium in your diet,
- Low Vitamin D,
- High cholesterol,
- Lack of physical activity,
- Drinking too much alcohol,
- Chronic conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease & sleep apnea, &
Signs & Symptoms
Also, most people with high blood pressure above 140/90 mmHg but less than 180/120 mm Hg will not experience any visible symptoms.
That’s the reason most people call hypertension as the “silent killer”.
However, if your blood pressure is close to 180/120 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), it is called a hypertensive crisis, which is a medical emergency. At this stage, symptoms will show, some of them are:
- Blurred or double vision,
- Heart palpitations, and
Anybody who experiences these symptoms should see their physician immediately. People who have received a diagnosis of hypertension should get frequent blood pressure checks. Individuals whose readings are within the normal range should get tested at least once every year. Meanwhile, others with risk factors or a family history of hypertension should have more frequent checks.