How to Understand Blood Pressure Readings

Man sitting checking blood pressure at home

Every time you go to the doctor, the nurse checks your blood pressure. Do you have any idea what those numbers mean? If you’re like a lot of people, you don’t. You just know that sometimes the doctor is happy about them, and sometimes not. Interestingly, high blood pressure is the most commonly diagnosed health condition in the United States, and somewhere around 68 million people in the country are living with it. Did you know that leaving high blood pressure untreated is dangerous? It can lead to heart attack, heart failure, stroke, kidney disease, vision loss, and other serious consequences. Let’s talk about blood pressure readings so that you’ll know if you’re headed down a dangerous path.

  • What is blood pressure, anyway? When your heart beats, it pumps blood throughout the body, through the arteries. Doctors measure the force of the blood that’s moving through the arteries, and this is what’s known as blood pressure. You probably know that blood pressure readings are given in two numbers, one over the other. The top number is the systolic pressure, and the bottom one is the diastolic pressure. The systolic pressure is a measurement of the force of the blood after a heartbeat, and the diastolic is the pressure when the heart rests between beats.
  • Does blood pressure that is high equate to high blood pressure? Not always. If it’s just high temporarily, like when you’re in pain or nervous, that’s just a normal fluctuation. If it’s consistently high, that’s high blood pressure, and it is making your heart work harder than is healthy.
  • What are the different categories for blood pressure readings?
    • Under 120 systolic and 80 diastolic is normal
    • 120-129 systolic and under 80 diastolic is considered elevated
    • 130-139 systolic OR 80-89 diastolic is hypertension stage 1, high blood pressure
    • 140 or above and 90 or above is hypertension stage 2
    • Anything higher than 180 systolic or 120 diastolic requires emergency care, as it’s a hypertensive crisis
  • How do you know if you’re at risk for high blood pressure? Your risk increases with age, and a family history can mean you’re genetically predisposed to hypertension. Lifestyle makes a difference, too, and people can often improve blood pressure through diet and exercise.
  • High blood pressure doesn’t always have symptoms. In fact, people often neglect to have they’re blood pressure checked regularly because they feel fine. If you have extremely high blood pressure, however, you may experience headache, fatigue, confusion, chest pain, difficulty breathing, irregular heartbeat, vision problems, pounding in the neck, ears, or chest, blood in the urine, vomiting, seizures, or even unresponsiveness. If any of these symptoms occur, seek emergency medical treatment immediately.

The goal of Total Point Urgent Care is to be a convenient healthcare resource for our community. Providing immediate medical care at a fraction of the cost of an emergency room, each neighborhood urgent care clinic in our network offers warm, efficient, personalized care. At our locations in Texas and Arizona, our on-site technology and services include urgent care walk ins, primary care, specialty care, routine check-ups, flu shots and other vaccinations, COVID-19 testing, and onsite lab and x rays. Soon, we’ll even offer virtual visits so that our patients can choose telecare instead of risking a trip to the clinic. For convenient medical care, visit one of our locations or contact us through our website.

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