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Blood Pressure Readings Demystified

Although most people have their blood pressure measured at the doctor’s office once a year, many people aren’t sure what the numbers mean in relation to their overall health. However, blood pressure readings are easy to understand if you know the blood pressure basics.

A blood pressure reading consists of the measurements of two kinds of blood pressure: systolic pressure, which is the pressure in your arteries when your heart muscle contracts, and diastolic pressure, which is the pressure in your blood when your heart rests between beats. These two types of pressure are measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). A blood pressure measurement has systolic pressure listed first and diastolic pressure listed second.

A blood pressure reading of 120/80 mm Hg is considered normal. But, even if you have normal blood pressure, it is important to take preventive measures in order to decrease your risk of developing problems in the future. Typically, systolic pressure tends to rise once you are over 50. The best course of action at any age is to maintain a healthy weight through a nutritious diet and an active lifestyle.

There may be cause for concern if your systolic measurement is between 120 and 139 mm Hg, or if your diastolic measurement is between 80 and 89 mm Hg. While these levels are not considered high, you may have prehypertension—which is a sign that you may need to adopt healthier habits.

A blood pressure reading of 140/90 mm Hg is considered high. Generally, if you have high blood pressure, you may also be diagnosed with hypertension. Hypertension significantly increases your chances of heart disease and stroke. Depending on which stage of hypertension you are in, your doctor may prescribe medication in addition to asking you to lose weight and adopt a healthier lifestyle.

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