Understanding Blood Pressure Readings
If you’ve been to the doctor any time in the past century, chances are you’ve had your blood pressure taken. There are several ways to take your blood pressure, but they all produce a standard reading.
Read on to learn what a blood pressure reading is, what the numbers mean and how blood pressure levels are categorized. You can also get our free printable Blood Pressure Chart!
Know Your Numbers
A blood pressure reading looks like below… In fact that’s the number you want to be below to fall into the normal blood pressure category.
There are two numbers that make up a blood pressure reading. A top number and a bottom number. In the example above, 120 is the top number and 80 is the bottom number.
The units are in millimetres of Mercury – which is historically how pressure is measured and is still used today. Here’s what the numbers mean.
Top Number – Systolic Pressure
Systolic pressure is the force of blood in your arteries as your heart is beating. This number should always be highest of the two as it is where the pressure is greatest.
Bottom Number – Diastolic Pressure
Diastolic pressure is the force of blood in your arteries as your heart relaxes between each beat. This is where the pressure is the lowest.
Blood Pressure Categories
Blood pressure can be grouped into categories. These give you an indication of whether your blood pressure is high – putting you at greater risk of cardiovascular disease such as heart attack and stroke.
The ranges for each category were historically higher but were revised down in 2017. It is estimated that 75 million American adults have high blood pressure. That’s 1 in every 3 adults.
The below categories are outlined by the American Heart Association and in the research paper published in 2017.
Normal blood pressure is when your systolic pressure is below 120 and your diastolic pressure is below 80. For example 110/75. You can maintain this blood pressure number by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
Elevated blood pressure is when your systolic pressure reads between 120-129 and your diastolic pressure is below 80. For example 121/76 or 129/79. This represents a risk of developing high blood pressure unless you take action to control it. Blood pressure can be lowered with lifestyle changes including:
- eating healthier
- losing weight
- exercising more
- stopping smoking
- reducing alcohol consumption
- reducing stress
Making healthier choices can be all that is required to keep your blood pressure under control. We’ve got some tips on how to lower your blood pressure naturally.
High – Hypertension Stage 1
Hypertension stage 1 is considered high blood pressure and is when your systolic pressure is between 130-139 and your diastolic pressure is between 80-89. For example 135/86. At this stage, doctors will likely recommend lifestyle changes and may prescribe medications to lower your blood pressure.
High – Hypertension Stage 2
Stage 2 hypertension is also considered high blood pressure and is when your systolic pressure is 140 or higher and your diastolic pressure is 90 or higher. If you have been unable to lower your blood pressure through lifestyle changes then your doctor may prescribe a combination of medications.
A hypertensive crisis is when blood pressure is dangerously high and may require immediate medical attention. This is when your your systolic pressure is 180 or higher and / or your diastolic pressure is 120 or higher. If you are experiencing chest pain, shortness of breath, back pain, numbness / weakness, or having vision or speaking difficulties – call the emergency services for help immediately.
Printable Blood Pressure Chart
Check your blood pressure readings using this free printable blood pressure chart.
- The table section shows the blood pressure categories and the ranges.
- The chart section shows the ranges visually and makes it easy to see the categories.
Lower High Blood Pressure Quickly
One way to naturally lower your high blood pressure is through the use of guided breathing and relaxation exercises. Using simple techniques it’s possible to see both your systolic and diastolic blood pressure numbers come down fast – in as little as 9 minutes a day. If you incorporate the techniques into your daily routine then over a period of weeks you can start to see a sustained reduction in your numbers.
This method doesn’t require any drugs so you can avoid any blood pressure medication side effects. Even if you are taking blood pressure medication these techniques can still be effective. Learn how 3 easy exercises can drop your blood pressure fast!
Now you understand the numbers and where your blood pressure is sitting currently – the next step is to monitor it for change over time.
If you have high blood pressure, your doctor may ask you to monitor it at home. You may be asked to keep a log of your readings over the course of a few days or weeks. This helps your carer get an idea of your average blood pressure levels. Check out our printable blood pressure log, which you can use to record your readings at home.
If you are in the normal blood pressure range – good for you! Keep doing what you’re doing and have it checked next time you visit the doctor.
Like usual, talk with your doctor about any concerns you have about your blood pressure. There are many ways to treat high blood pressure and you should find the option that best suits you.
Fortunately, there are things you can do to take control of your blood pressure and overall health. Small lifestyle changes can be enough to prevent and control high blood pressure.
Take small steps forward. You will be thankful you did when you realize how much better you feel.