Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of your arteries. It is measured in two numbers: systolic and diastolic. The systolic number is the pressure when your heart beats and pushes blood out into your arteries. The diastolic number is the pressure when your heart rests between beats.
A normal blood pressure reading is less than 120/80 mmHg. High blood pressure is when your blood pressure is consistently higher than 130/80 mmHg.
Why Check Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke; both lead to a higher risk of needing long-term care. It can also damage your kidneys and eyes. High blood pressure often has no symptoms, so checking your blood pressure regularly is important.
How to Check Blood Pressure
You can check your blood pressure at home or at your doctor's office. You will need a blood pressure monitor to check your blood pressure at home.
To use a blood pressure monitor:
- Sit down in a comfortable chair and rest your arm on a table at heart level.
- Wrap the cuff around your arm and place it just above the elbow. Make sure the cuff is snug but not too tight.
- Press the start button on the monitor and wait for the reading to appear on the screen.
- Write down your blood pressure reading in a journal.
It is important to check your blood pressure at two different times of the day, such as when you wake up and before you go to bed. This will give you a more accurate picture of your blood pressure.
You may need to check your blood pressure more often if you have high blood pressure. Talk to your doctor about how often you should check your blood pressure.
How to Read a Blood Pressure Reading
Your blood pressure reading will be two numbers, such as 120/80 mmHg. The first number is the systolic blood pressure, and the second number is the diastolic blood pressure.
Here is how to read a blood pressure reading:
- Systolic blood pressure: The systolic blood pressure is the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats. A normal systolic blood pressure is less than 120 mmHg.
- Diastolic blood pressure: The diastolic blood pressure is the pressure in your arteries when your heart rests between beats. A normal diastolic blood pressure is less than 80 mmHg.
If your blood pressure reading is higher than 130/80 mmHg, you have high blood pressure. Talk to your doctor about how to lower your blood pressure.
Over 50? Better Keep Track of Your BP
The risk of high blood pressure increases as you age. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than half of all adults in the United States have high blood pressure. And the prevalence of high blood pressure is even higher among adults over 50.
Here are some tips for lowering your blood pressure:
- Eat a healthy diet. Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Limit saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, and sodium.
- Exercise regularly. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Losing weight can help to lower your blood pressure.
- Quit smoking. Smoking can damage your arteries and raise your blood pressure.
- Manage stress. Stress can raise your blood pressure. Find healthy ways to manage stress, such as exercise, yoga, or meditation.
If you have high blood pressure, your doctor may also prescribe medication to help lower your blood pressure. It is important to take your medication as prescribed and to follow your doctor's instructions.
Checking your blood pressure regularly is one of the best things you can do to protect your health. If you are over 50, talk to your doctor about how often you should check your blood pressure.
About the Author
Linda is a former journalist who now enjoys writing about topics she is interested in so she “can keep her mind active and engaged”.
Contributor since December 11th, 2017
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