Knowing your blood pressure numbers

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April 14, 2024

What is blood pressure?

Just like air pressure in a tire, blood pressure is the measure of the pressure your blood puts on your blood vessels. Did you know only 1 in 4 people with a high blood pressure diagnosis are keeping their blood pressure under control? You can keep yours in control by learning what blood pressure is and how to measure it at home! Learn how to measure your blood pressure at home.  If you need extra help, we’re here for you. Simply self enroll for support, you can also call us at (410) 348-1905 or send us an email. Learn about your blood pressure in the video below!

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What are the two blood pressure numbers? 

Blood Pressure is measured at two points, the highest pressure which happens when your heart tightens to “squeeze” blood out to your blood vessels and the lowest pressure which happens when your heart is most relaxed. If your blood pressure is 120 over 80 (or 120/80), this is the “squeeze pressure” over the “relax pressure.” The medical names for these two numbers are systolic and diastolic.

What is healthy blood pressure, and why is it important?

Your blood pressure needs to be high enough that your body is getting enough blood to reach all of your organs, but not so high that the pressure causes damage to tiny and fragile blood vessels. Again, just like a tire - too low and you have a flat, too high and your tire can pop! When there is high pressure over a long period of time the tiny vessels in your eyes, kidneys, brain, and heart can become damaged. This is why it is so important to check your blood pressure often, and work with your doctor to keep it in the “safe” zone. Learn what high blood pressure does.

What if I take medication for blood pressure and my numbers are too high or too low? 

A: If you take medication for high blood pressure and your blood pressure is good it means the medication is working! If your blood pressure starts to get too low or too high your provider can adjust your medication to keep it just right.

Blood pressure chart:

Keep this chart by your home blood pressure machine (Link will show you how to take your blood pressure on a home machine).

What do I do if my blood pressure numbers are in the red zone?

Follow the guidelines directly from the American Heart Association website: If your blood pressure is higher than 180/120 mm Hg and you are experiencing signs of possible organ damage such as chest pain, shortness of breath, back pain, numbness/weakness, change in vision or difficulty speaking, do not wait to see whether your pressure comes down on its own. Call 911, as this is an emergency.

A single high reading is not an immediate cause for alarm. If you get a reading that is slightly or moderately higher than normal, take your blood pressure a second time and write the results of the two measurements down. Consult your health care professional to verify if there’s a health concern or whether there may be any issues with your monitor. If your blood pressure readings suddenly exceed 180/120 mm Hg, wait five minutes and test again. If your readings are still unusually high, contact your health care professional immediately. You could be experiencing a hypertensive crisis.

The content on this site is not and should not be considered medical advice or a substitute for individual medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should always talk to your health care provider(s) for diagnosis and treatment, including information regarding which drugs, therapy, or other treatment may be appropriate for you. Learn more here.

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