Unlike some diagnostic tests conducted by doctors, blood pressure can be done on your own. Most grocery and drug stores have a blood pressure machine that allows you to see your current blood pressure. Of course, getting a number doesn’t mean much if you don’t understand the importance of what it means. Do you know what good blood pressure means? What does blood pressure even measure?
Before you can find out what good blood pressure means and what to aim for, you first need to understand how to interpret a blood pressure reading. Blood pressure shows up as two numbers. Doctors refer to these numbers as systolic and diastolic numbers. The systolic number is the top number on the readout, and the diastolic is the bottom number. Both numbers measure a different aspect of your blood pressure. The systolic (top) number measures the pressure of your blood against your artery walls when your heart beats. The diastolic (bottom) number measures the pressure when your heart rests between beats.
Why does blood pressure matter? The more pressure your blood puts on the arterial walls, the harder your heart has to work to pump blood through your body. As your heart works harder and harder, it can cause damage to itself and to your arteries. High blood pressure also increases your chance of having a stroke, heart attack, kidney damage, damage to your eyes, and more. A number of factors contribute to high blood pressure, including:
- Lack of exercise
- Too much sodium in your diet
- Too much alcohol
So what do doctors consider to be good blood pressure? Good blood pressure measures at less than 120 over 80. This means that the systolic number should be anywhere below 120, while the diastolic number should be less than 80. Anything higher indicates high blood pressure or pre-high blood pressure (called hypertension).
Since February is National Heart Health Month, it is important to remind you to take care of your health. High blood pressure is something that many Americans have to deal with, and you can lower your blood pressure over time with exercise, changes in diet, and talking to your doctor. If you haven’t talked to your doctor recently, be sure to schedule an appointment at the Medical and Surgical Clinic of Irving. Doctors typically take your blood pressure before most examinations, including a physical. Keeping good care of your heart by maintaining good blood pressure will help ensure that both you and your heart enjoy a long, healthy life.