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Do You Know Your Blood Pressure?

Updated on March 17, 2014



What Do The Numbers Mean? by awordlover

Do you know what your blood pressure is - a ballpark figure?


Well, you should. It is important for the function of all your other organs and if it is too high, there are certain steps, food, exercise and living habits that you must change if you want to stay on this planet a bit longer.

The top number is called systolic and this number tells the physician what the pressure is in your arteries when your heart beats. The bottom number is called diastolic and this number tells the physician what the pressure is in the arteries between your heartbeats.

The ideal and preferred blood pressure in a healthy adult is 120/80.

While this is optimal, it is not always practical given your body size, shape, weight, and family history. Below is a chart depicting standard ranges.

Do You Know Your Blood Pressure?

Types of Blood Pressure
Less than 120 AND
Less than 80
120 to 139 OR
80 to 89
High blood pressure (HYPERtension Stage 1)
140 to 159 OR
90 to 99
High blood pressure (HYPERtension Stage 2)
160 or higher OR
100 or higher
Hypertension crisis
Higher than 180 OR
Higher than 110

Sodium is Salt, It's In Many Foods

Convenient way of taking blood pressure
Convenient way of taking blood pressure | Source

High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) - researched by awordlover

First and foremost to understand is that your blood pressure does not remain the same all the time. It goes down when you sleep and goes up when you get up for the day. Being nervous, active, or upset can also make your blood pressure go up.

An illness can cause fluctuations as do certain medications. Some people are diagnosed with pre-hypertension and that means that, unless treated, you will likely end up with high blood pressure in your future.

If your physician cannot find a cause for your high blood pressure, it is labeled idiopathic hypertension - no known cause.

  • If you have diabetes, kidney disease, thyroid disease or any ongoing medical condition, it is labeled secondary hypertension.

Women taking birth control pills or are on hormone therapy for menopause will often have high blood pressure and should be closely monitored. Asthma medications and over the counter cold and flu products can increase your blood pressure.

  • High blood pressure often goes hand in hand with smoking, overuse of salt (example: fast food or prepared foods), consuming alcoholic beverages, and lack of physical activity.

Obesity and high blood pressure are often noted together. African Americans as well as Hispanic are more likely to have high blood pressure than Caucasians.

  • High blood pressure rarely has any symptoms. But it can cause serious problems like stroke, kidney failure, heart failure, or heart attack.

Before you develop a treatment plan for high blood pressure, your pressure should be monitored by you at home and you should keep a record for about three weeks to a month.

Use the wrist BP monitor if you have one -- they are fairly accurate. The physician will get a better picture when you hand him your recordkeeping notes. It is also helpful to note alongside your daily data what activities you performed shortly before you take your blood pressure. Activity can impact the numbers.

Foods That Help Lower Blood Pressure

Holter Monitor
Holter Monitor | Source

Holter Monitor -researched by awordlover

The next step to diagnosis is for the patient to wear a Holter monitor for at least 24 hours at home while doing regular activities. Some patients say "I can't leave the house for 24 hours?" or "I guess I can't go to the gym for 24 hours."

The fact is that if you do not perform your regular activities while being monitored with the Holter, it is a waste of time and money to even bother with the test in the first place.

The idea is to catch your heart being good and to catch your heart being bad, and the physician needs to know which activity you are doing to determine the stressor/antagonist.

After reviewing the Holter monitor results, your physician will decide if a stress test is needed.

Stress tests can be physical or chemical. Physical stress tests are on a treadmill while wearing a Holter monitor. Chemical stress tests are performed with injection of persantine or similar drug and a monitor (resembles ultrasound screen) records reactions in your heart and chambers.

If you receive a diagnosis of high blood pressure, it can be managed with medication, change in lifestyle and diet. However, the diagnosis is not to be taken lightly.

High Blood Pressure

Untreated High Blood Pressure - researched by awordlover

If only the top number is high (the bottom number is within normal range), it is called isolated systolic hypertension or ISH.

If you have untreated high blood pressure for years, it is doing damage within your body - to your kidneys, heart, blood vessels and other parts of the body.

Unfortunately, many people will not be diagnosed with high blood pressure until a more serious condition is found. By that time, aggressive treatment needs to be implemented.

Many patients blame a physician for not getting them better. Please do not totally rely on your physician to manage your high blood pressure.

When you come down to it, blood pressure management is 5% physician, 95% patient. You have to help yourself by following a treatment plan, stick to it, take your medication, and change certain lifestyle habits. This will ensure a better quality of life, and ultimately, a longer life. It is up to you.

Certain medications list dizziness as a side effect. It is important to read product labels.
Certain medications list dizziness as a side effect. It is important to read product labels. | Source

Low Blood Pressure (Hypotension) - researched by awordlover

A blood pressure reading of 90/60 or lower is considered low blood pressure. Some people have low blood pressure all their lives and suffer no adverse effects. It is their normal.

Medications (over the counter and prescription) can cause low blood pressure.

Some people experience dizziness upon standing. When this dizziness leads to faintness, then it is a problem which needs to be treated.

A severe form of low blood pressure is called shock, which can be fatal if you do not get treatment.

Most of the time, low blood pressure happens when your body cannot bring it back to normal fast enough.

Signs and symptoms of low blood pressure can include cold, clammy skin, dizziness, fainting, fatigue, that sick to your stomach feeling without vomiting, and sometimes blurred vision.

Vertigo Chart

Diagram shows how to rule out other diagnoses for vertigo
Diagram shows how to rule out other diagnoses for vertigo | Source
Dizziness affects several body systems
Dizziness affects several body systems | Source

Types of Low Blood Pressure - researched by awordlover

If you have low blood pressure all the time with no ill effects, it is called chronic asymptomatic hypotension. Patients usually have no signs or symptoms and do not need treatment.

When your blood pressure goes down after you have been in a standing position for a long time, this is called neurally mediated hypotension. Patients will experience dizziness, faintness, and sometimes nausea.

When you stand up from a sitting or lying position, you might get dizzy or faint for a minute or two- this is called orthostatic hypotension and is the most common among the frail or elderly.

Sit down and allow blood pressure to catch up to you.

Take your time in the future when changing positions.

Orthostatic hypotension can sometimes have an underlying medical condition as its cause. If it happens regularly, a complete workup should be done.

Dehydration is a common cause - not drinking enough fluids, sweating your fluids out, or frequent urination are examples of dehydration. Certain medical conditions like anemia, thyroid disorders, heart valve disease, endocrine system disturbances (diabetes, low blood sugar, Addison's Disease) can lead to orthostatic hypotension.

When you experience sudden low blood pressure after a meal, this is called postprandial hypotension and is often seen in older adults.

Shock is the most severe form of low blood pressure and can be life threatening. This is when your blood pressure falls so low that your vital organs cannot get enough blood to work most efficiently. Causes can be severe blood loss, severe trauma to any part of the body, allergic reactions to food, medication or environment, poisoning, and uncontrolled infections.

If shock is not treated immediately, it is fatal.

Good communication and a good treatment plan are key factors in managing blood pressure
Good communication and a good treatment plan are key factors in managing blood pressure | Source

Diagnosis and Treatment - researched by awordlover

Unlike certain groups of people with high blood pressure, low blood pressure can happen to anyone of any race or age group.

If you take diuretics and/or medication to control your high blood pressure, you are more likely to suffer incidents of low blood pressure.

People who work outdoors in the heat, patients who are bedridden so that they do not move around much and pregnancy are risk factors for low blood pressure.

Tests to diagnose low blood pressure include

  • blood tests for anemia and low blood sugar,
  • 24 hour Holter monitor,
  • EKG,
  • Echocardiogram
  • stress tests, and
  • tilt table test.

The tilt table test is used when no there is no known cause for fainting or dizziness. Patients lie on a table, that is adjusted from lying position to a standing position and the physician will monitor your blood pressure for fluctuations. It is beneficial in diagnosing nervous system and brain diseases. Most patients with neurally mediated hypotension faint during this test.

Treatment can include

  • medication adjustments,
  • getting adequate fluids,
  • increasing salt in diet,
  • compression stockings to force blood flow up from the legs, and
  • eating smaller more frequent meals.

In my experience, low blood pressure is far easier to treat than high blood pressure.

A cooperative patient, a good treatment plan which a physician is not afraid to change (if it is not working for the patient), and good communication between physician and patient go a long way in the treatment of most of the symptoms of hypotension.

Do not copy this article. It is not free to copy just because it is on the internet.

This means don't copy this article. It also means if you DO copy, a DMCA notice of copyright infringement will be filed against you.
This means don't copy this article. It also means if you DO copy, a DMCA notice of copyright infringement will be filed against you. | Source

Published by awordlover January 19, 2012

9/28/2013 - updated by Fiona Powers, from awordlover's team

2/2/2014 - updated by Rachael O'Halloran to replace pixelated Copyscape logos and correct format issues.

© 2012 awordlover


Submit a Comment

  • awordlover profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago

    TYVM Sunasia22 for your votes, comment and follow. :-)

  • sunasia22 profile image


    6 years ago from Philippines

    A very comprehensive and complete guide regarding blood pressure. This hub is very useful and interesting! Thanks for giving us all these informations. Voted up!

  • awordlover profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago

    Hi LadyLyell, Thank you so much for the follow! And for your visit and votes :-)

  • LadyLyell profile image


    6 years ago from George, South Africa

    Very, very interesting!

    I am one of the lucky one's to always have normal readings.

    Thanks for the input!

    PS I will certainly keep up to date with your articles and thanks for inviting me to

  • awordlover profile imageAUTHOR


    6 years ago

    TYVM rjsadowski -- So many people think that physicians cure all, when they really need to take charge of their own health and just let the physician serve as an advisor. Thank you for stopping by and your comment.

  • rjsadowski profile image


    6 years ago

    A lot of good information and advice. It is important that we understand our health problems so that we can help our physician to make intelligent decisions.


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