The Meaning of Blood Pressure

The Meaning of Blood PressureDo you know your blood pressure?  Many people find out their blood pressure is high when they go to the doctor for another health reason.  This is because high blood pressure does not have any symptoms and is known as the “silent killer.”  Over time, high blood pressure leads to organ and blood vessel damage including heart attack and stroke.

Blood pressure is used as an indication of the pressure of blood within your heart and blood vessels.  The systolic blood pressure, the top number, measures the pressure within your arteries when the heart contracts or beats.  This number is always higher than the bottom number. The diastolic blood pressure, the bottom number, measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart is between beats and filling up with blood.

Both systolic and diastolic pressure measurements are important. A person can have high blood pressure even if only the upper OR lower number is elevated.  The chart below is the American Heart Association’s recommendation for blood pressure categories.

The prehypertension category indicates that a person is at risk of developing high blood pressure.

What is your risk for high blood pressure?
There are risk factors that can lead to high blood pressure.  Some you can change and some you can’t.  Knowing your risk factors can help you decrease the chances of high blood pressure or, if you have high blood pressure, can help you to lower it.

Risk factors you cannot change:
Family history – it may be hereditary
Age – the older you get the less stretchy your arteries

Risk factors you can change:
What you put in your mouth – a diet high in salt, fats and sugar and low in fruits and veggies increases your risk for high blood pressure
What you do for exercise – exercising your body also exercises your heart and blood vessels
What you weigh – being overweight puts more stress on the heart and blood vessels
What you drink – too much alcohol intake can raise blood pressure and damage other organs

Other factors that can affect blood pressure:
Stress – do you manage stress or does stress manage you?
Tobacco- using it or being around it can damage blood vessels

Diagnosis of High Blood Pressure
Your blood pressure can change on a constant basis depending on what you are doing.  High blood pressure is diagnosed by taking the blood pressure over a period of time and usually at different times of the day.  Many pharmacies and fire stations offer free blood pressure readings.  By doing this and keeping a record, the doctor can determine whether you have high blood pressure and discuss the treatment.  Most treatments include making healthy lifestyle changes and medication.

You should have your blood pressure checked at least once per year if you don’t have high blood pressure.  If you do have high blood pressure, you should follow your doctor’s recommendation as to how often to have your blood pressure checked.

high blood pressure

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Beth Meyer is a nursing instructor at Manatee Technical College in Bradenton, Florida.  She is a Florida Registered Nurse.  She earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Florida and her Master in Education degree from Argosy University.  Beth has been teaching in the practical nursing program at MTC since 1998.  Prior to joining MTC, she worked as an intensive care and home health nurse.

The practical nursing program at Manatee Technical College takes about 13 months (full-
time) to complete.  Students are prepared to pass the NCLEX, which is the national licensing exam to become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN).  The school’s pass rate on the exam is 89%, and the job placement rate is 98%.  Graduates may earn an advanced placement option or up to 10 credits toward an Associate of Science degree in Nursing at Florida state colleges.

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