Everyone would like to have healthy blood pressure. But what exactly does that mean? When your doctor takes your blood pressure, it’s expressed as a measurement with two numbers, with one number on top (systolic) and one on the bottom (diastolic), like a fraction. For example, 120/80.
The top number refers to the amount of pressure in your arteries during contraction of your heart muscle. This is called systolic pressure. The bottom number refers to your blood pressure when your heart muscle is between beats. This is called diastolic pressure. Both numbers are important in determining the state of your heart health.
Numbers greater than the ideal range indicate that your heart is working too hard to pump blood to the rest of your body.
What's normal and when is it high blood pressure?
Blood pressure (BP) readings are expressed as a ratio of the systolic pressure (the first number or numerator), over the diastolic pressure (the second number or denominator). A blood pressure of 120/80 mmHg (millimetres of mercury) is expressed verbally as 120 over 80.
A healthy blood pressure reading should be lower than 120/80 mmHg. Normal blood pressure is less than 120 mmHg systolic and 80 mmHg diastolic, and may vary from 90/60mmHg to 120/80mmHg in a healthy young woman. A blood pressure of 140/90 mmHg or higher indicates high blood pressure.
If you’re in the normal range, no medical intervention is needed. However, you should maintain a healthy lifestyle and healthy weight to prevent hypertension from developing. Regular exercise and reduced salt intake can also help. You may need to be even more mindful of your lifestyle if hypertension runs in your family.
Measuring blood pressure at home
You can measure your own blood pressure at home with a digital blood pressure device that can be purchased at most pharmacies. Read the instructions carefully. You may wish to calibrate your reading with your family doctor. The right time to take the measurement is when you are at rest.
Some tips that will help ensure the accuracy of your blood pressure reading include:
- Sitting in a comfortable position
Placing your left arm, raised to the level of your heart, on a table or desk, and sit still
Wrapping the cuff of the monitor smoothly and snugly around the upper part of your bare arm