Monitoring your blood pressure is an important aspect of maintaining your health. Blood pressure can be looked at as a gauge to your health and, generally, is a good indicator of the internal condition of your body, especially your heart.
It’s always a good idea to have a working goal with your physician as to what he or she believes are healthy blood pressure numbers for you. Keeping your numbers lower can reduce your chance of heart attack, stroke, and heart failure. Many different factors go into why your blood pressure is what it is.
These are some things you can do to better manage your numbers:
- Maintain a healthy body weight
- Cease tobacco use
- Reduce sodium in your diet
- Become more active
- Manage your stress
- Limit alcohol consumption
- Discuss medications with your physician
The science behind the numbers
Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and is broken down into systolic and diastolic values. The systolic number is the higher number and the diastolic is the lower measurement.
Systolic pressure is the measured force on the blood vessel walls when your heart beats and pumps the blood from the heart. Diastolic pressure is the force that takes place when the heart is relaxing and filling back up with blood between beats.
High blood pressure is 140/90 or greater. Adults should have a blood pressure of less than 120/80. Many people fall into the category in between, called prehypertension. People with prehypertension need to make lifestyle changes to bring their blood pressure down and help prevent or delay high blood pressure.
About one in three adults in the United States has high blood pressure, so it makes sense to check yours regularly. Check out the American Heart Association’s High Blood Pressure Risk Calculator and read more about blood pressure in our online Health Center.