Approximately 1.1 billion people have high blood pressure worldwide, up from 594 million people in 1975. Hypertension is the leading cause of stroke and heart disease, which kills 7.5 million people around the globe each year.
Prevention is of the utmost importance in the fight against high blood pressure.
Along with exercise and a healthy diet, you should understand how to read a blood pressure chart and what’s considered high blood pressure.
What Is The Normal Blood Pressure Range?
To maintain healthy blood pressure levels, you should understand your readings and what each number means. If you plan to take regular readings at home, knowing how to interpret your readings will help you understand whether you need to take steps to improve your numbers.
A total blood pressure reading is determined by measuring systolic and diastolic blood pressures. Let’s define those…
What is Systolic Blood Pressure?
Systolic blood pressure is the top number in your reading, and it measures the force that your heart exerts on your artery walls each time it beats.
Each time your heart beats, it pumps blood through the arteries to the rest of your body. The force of each pump puts pressure on your blood vessels. This is your systolic blood pressure.
A normal systolic pressure reading is below 120.
A systolic reading of 140 or higher means that you have hypertension, or high blood pressure.
What is Diastolic Blood Pressure?
Diastolic blood pressure is the bottom number in your reading, and it measures the force your heart exerts on your artery walls in between beats.
When your heart rests in between beats, it fills with oxygen and blood.
A normal diastolic blood pressure reading lower than 80.
A reading of 90 or higher may indicate that you have high blood pressure.
How to Read a Blood Pressure Chart
Interpreting your readings on a visual bp chart will help you understand whether you have high or low blood pressure.
Reading the chart isn’t as complicated as it sounds.
Here’s how it works:
- Find your systolic blood pressure (the top number) on the left side of the chart.
- Find your diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) on the bottom of the chart.
- Where the two meet is your blood pressure.
Only one of your numbers needs to higher than it should be to be considered high blood pressure.
For example, if your top number is 140, you may have hypertension regardless of your bottom number. If your bottom number is over 90, you might have high blood pressure regardless of your top number.
Which Number is More Important?
When analyzing your blood pressure reading, you may be wondering which number is more important.
Blood Pressure UK, which is part of the Blood Pressure Association, says that the systolic blood pressure number is more important because it’s a greater indicator of your risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
If your diastolic blood pressure is elevated but your diastolic blood pressure is normal, this is considered Isolated Systolic Hypertension, or ISH.
With that said, there are occasions when diastolic blood pressure may be more important. Studies suggest that diastolic blood pressure may be more indicative of risk in people under the age of 40.
What is Considered High BP?
Blood pressure readings generally fall into four categories: normal, elevated, hypertension stage 1 and hypertension stage 2.
Generally, any reading that is above 120/80 mm Hg is considered high BP.
A normal blood pressure reading is anything below 120/80 mm Hg.
Elevated Blood Pressure
If your systolic reading is 120-129 and your diastolic reading is below 80, this is considered elevated blood pressure. At this stage, you’ll want to maintain or adopt a healthy lifestyle to avoid progressing into stage 1 or stage 2 hypertension.
Elevated blood pressure doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re at a much higher risk of a heart attack or stroke. There are many things that can temporarily elevate your blood pressure levels, including:
- Sitting with your legs crossed
- Cold temperatures
Should you panic if you have one elevated blood pressure reading? No.
But if your blood pressure readings are consistently elevated, then you’ll need to make lifestyle changes to avoid progressing to stage 1 or stage 2 hypertension.
There are also many causes of elevated blood pressure that are not temporary, such as:
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Adrenal disease
- Thyroid disease
- Kidney disease
- Family history
- Sedentary lifestyle
At this stage, it’s important to talk to your doctor about lifestyle changes to make to improve your reading.
Changes may include:
- Eating a healthier diet
- Using less salt
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Drinking less alcohol
- Quitting smoking
- Exercising regularly
Hypertension Stage 1
If your blood pressure readings are consistently between 130-139/80-89 mm Hg, your doctor will likely diagnose you with stage 1 hypertension.
It’s important to note that one reading this high may not necessarily mean that you have high blood pressure, according to the American Heart Association.
If your readings are consistently in the above-listed range, then your doctor may begin prescribing medication and recommending that you make lifestyle changes. Doctors are more likely to prescribe medication if you’re already at high risk for heart disease.
Hypertension Stage 2
Consistent readings of 140+/90+ mm Hg indicate hypertension stage 2, which is an even more serious condition.
At this stage, doctors recommend taking at least one medication to keep blood pressure levels under control.
These medications might include:
- Beta-blockers, which lower your heart rate and block substances that tighten blood vessels.
- ACE inhibitors, which block substances that constrict blood vessels.
- Calcium channel blockers, which relax the arteries and give the heart a rest.
- Alpha blockers, which relax the arteries.
- Diuretics to reduce the amount of fluids in your body.
Lifestyle changes will also be recommended and are just as important as the medication.
When blood pressure reaches above 180/120 mm Hg, it is considered hypertensive crisis.
A reading this high indicates a serious health issue and requires urgent treatment.
At this stage, you may also experience the following symptoms:
- Visual changes
- Chest pain
- Symptoms of stroke, such as loss of facial muscle control and paralysis
- Blood in the urine
- Shortness of breath
What is Considered Low BP?
The lower your blood pressure, the better – right? That’s the motto many doctors have adopted. While low blood pressure rarely causes problems, it can cause fainting and dizziness. In really severe cases, it can be life-threatening.
What is a low blood pressure reading?
Generally, any reading below 90/60 mm Hg is considered low blood pressure.
Low blood pressure can be caused by a number of things, including dehydration and serious medical conditions.
Symptoms of low BP may include:
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Lack of concentration
- Blurred vision
Many things can cause low blood pressure, including:
- Blood loss. Significant blood loss due to internal bleeding or a major injury can cause a severe drop in blood pressure.
- Heart problems. Certain heart conditions can lower blood pressure, such as heart valve problems, extremely low heart rate, heart failure and heart attack.
- The circulatory system expands rapidly during pregnancy, which can cause low blood pressure.
- Severe infection. If an infection enters the bloodstream, it can cause a life-threatening drop in blood pressure.
- Endocrine problems. Low blood sugar, adrenal insufficiency, certain thyroid conditions and even diabetes can cause low blood pressure.
The important thing is to educate yourself on your current levels and consult your doctor if needed. You may be able to improve your readings with lifestyle changes or natural supplements.