What is the meaning of blood pressure numbers? What is the best blood pressure reading?

What is blood pressure? 

Blood pressure is a measurement of the pressure exerted by the blood rushing through the arteries. It is controlled mainly by the heart muscle, the many small arteries (arterioles) in the circulatory system, and proper kidney function. The strength of the heart determines the force with which the blood is pumped; the size of the small arteries (and their clear or clogged condition) determines arterial resistance to blood flow, and the kidneys control the amount of fluids in the body, which raise or lower the volume of blood.

When blood pressure is taken, two sets of numbers are recorded: the higher number is the systolic pressure, measured at the peak of the heart’s contraction (from the Greek systellein , “to shorten”), and the lower number is the diastolic pressure, measured when the heart is dilated and resting for an instant between beats (from the Greek diastelltin, “to dilate”). The normal range, when you are resting and free from stress, varies somewhat but should be lower than 130 for systolic pressure and less than 85 for diastolic pressure. When the blood pressure readings on repeated tests are above 1 40 systolic and 90 diastolic (written as 140/90), most doctors will diagnose you as having hypertension. When the reading is greater than 160/90, the nurse or doctor will start to frown and set a treatment plan in motion, often recommending one of the many bloodpressure- lowering medications. Such a high reading should also be a signal to work very hard on lifestyle (protective) factors. It’s normal for blood pressure to rise during physical activity, but it should return to normal soon after the end of your exercise. It can also rise because of stress or anxiety. For example, the stress induced by a visit to a physician’s office can result in a false high blood pressure reading, which in medicaljargon is called white-coat hypertension. Before blood pressure is measured, always rest for a while and relax, and get more than one measurement.

How serious a risk is high blood pressure? 

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is one of the four most important heart disease risk factors (along with smoking, high blood cholesterol, and physical inactivity). Hypertension damages the inside of arteries and increases cholesterol buildup in plaques inside the artery. Risk of heart attack and stroke rises in a stepwise fashion as blood pressure goes up from normal levels.


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