Blood pressure is an important aspect of heart health. When a healthcare professional measures your blood pressure, they express it as a measurement with two numbers - one on top (systolic) and one on the bottom (diastolic), like a fraction. The systolic pressure (the top number) is the pressure of the blood in your arteries when your heart contracts or beats. The diastolic pressure (the bottom number) is the pressure of the blood in your arteries between beats, when your heart relaxes. Both numbers are crucial in determining the state of your heart health.
For a normal reading, your blood pressure needs to show a systolic pressure that's above 90 mm Hg and less than 120 mm Hg, and a diastolic pressure that's between 60 mm Hg and less than 80 mm Hg. The American Heart Association (AHA) considers blood pressure to be within the normal range when both your systolic and diastolic numbers are in these ranges. However, numbers greater than the ideal range may be a sign that your heart is working too hard to pump blood to the rest of your body.
Blood pressure numbers that are higher than 120/80 mm Hg are a warning sign. It means you need to pay attention to your blood pressure and focus on heart-healthy habits. Although these numbers aren't technically considered high blood pressure, you've moved out of the normal range. Elevated blood pressure may turn into high blood pressure, which puts you at an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
You may receive a diagnosis of stage 1 hypertension if your systolic blood pressure is between 130 and 139 mm Hg, or your diastolic blood pressure is between 80 and 89 mm Hg. Stage 2 hypertension indicates a more serious condition, and you may receive a diagnosis if your systolic blood pressure is 140 mm Hg or higher, or your diastolic blood pressure is 90 mm Hg or higher. A blood pressure reading above 180/120 mm Hg indicates a serious health problem, known as a hypertensive crisis. Seek emergency medical treatment if you have blood pressure in this range.
It's important to maintain a healthy lifestyle and moderate weight to help prevent high blood pressure from developing. You may need to be even more mindful of your lifestyle if high blood pressure runs in your family. Lifestyle habits are just as important in stage 2 hypertension as they are in the other stages. Medications aren't the only treatment for this stage, though.
Lowering blood pressure can be achieved through regular exercise, eating a balanced diet, and managing your weight. If you're 65 years or older and otherwise healthy, your doctor will likely recommend treatment and lifestyle changes once your systolic blood pressure is greater than 130 mm Hg. The treatment for adults 65 and older who have significant health problems should be made on a case-by-case basis. Treating high blood pressure in older adults appears to decrease memory problems and dementia.
Knowing the high blood pressure symptoms and the ranges of normal blood pressure and high blood pressure can help you take action to maintain your heart health.