Heart Health 411- What is a Blood Pressure Reading?

As the daughter of a Registered Nurse, I am embarrassed to admit that I didn’t fully understand my blood pressure readings until recently.  All I knew was that high blood pressure was bad.  Each time I went to the doctor, I asked them if my blood pressure was ok.  After confirmation, I didn’t ask any other questions.  The numbers seemed foreign and I didn’t truly understand how they functioned as indicators of my heart health. 
Finally, I asked my doctor to explain the numbers to me.   A blood pressure reading consists of two numbers.  If you’ve ever seen it written, it looks like a fraction or a ratio.  The top number is the Systolic reading.  The bottom number is your Diastolic reading. The Systolic reading is the amount of pressure exerted on vessels while the heart is beating.  Put in a different way, it is the measure of your blood pressure while your heart is beating.  The Diastolic reading measures the pressure in your blood vessels between heart beats.  It represents your blood pressure when your heart is resting. 
Having high blood pressure increases your risk of developing heart disease.  On the American Heart Association website, you can find the chart below.  The chart outlines the different blood pressure categories and explains what the numbers say about your heart health.
Blood Pressure
mm Hg (upper #)
mm Hg (lower #)
Normalless than 120andless than 80
High Blood Pressure
(Hypertension) Stage 1
High Blood Pressure
(Hypertension) Stage 2
160 or higheror100 or higher
Hypertensive Crisis
(Emergency care needed)
Higher than 180orHigher than 110

You should get your blood pressured checked at the very  least, once a year and more often depending on your family history and risk factors. 
Go Red!
Ciji Dodds
Miss International 2011


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