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Blood Pressure

Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is defined as pressure that is exerted by the blood on the walls of the blood vessels, most particularly the arteries, and is a reflection of one or more of the following: efficiency of cardiac muscle contraction, blood volume and viscosity, overall status of the body’s blood vessels, and in general, the age and health of the individual. It is measured in terms of Systolic Pressure (when heart muscle contracts propelling blood into the circulatory system) and Diastolic Pressure (when your heart relaxes following contraction to allow refilling with blood). Blood pressure readings are measured in terms of systolic pressure “over” diastolic pressure and written as, for example, 120/80…which by the way is the benchmark for a healthy “resting”  blood pressure (measurement taken after 5 minutes in a seated position). If your resting blood pressure is consistently above that number, you may be at increased risk for a number of manifestations of hypertensive end organ damage. This can include any combination of the following: vascular and hemorrhagic cerebral stroke, retinopathy with vision loss, coronary artery heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, kidney failure, vascular atherosclerotic changes including the development of stenoses and aneurysms. For the gentlemen in the audience, long term exposure to elevated blood pressure has also been found to be a cause of premature Erectile Dysfunction.  

It is likely that almost one in four persons in the U.S. has high blood pressure (hypertension). Almost a third of those afflicted are unaware, because there are usually no symptoms until the blood pressure becomes dangerously high or has existed for long enough for secondary symptoms to develop. Until recently, the general consensus for classification of blood pressure readings has been as noted in the below chart from the Joint National Committee (JNC) on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure. In 2017 both the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC) called for research based stricter guidelines for blood pressure stratification. Their report additional notes interventions of lifestyle changes and medication use at lower levels of blood pressure than had previously been recognized by the JNC. Should the newer guidelines be more universally accepted, it will undoubtedly increase the percentages of people falling into categories of hypertension (with estimates as high as 45%) and will increase the numbers of persons for whom antihypertensive medications will be recommended. For now, at a minimum the JNP Guidelines should be set as a goal for blood pressure management, with an awareness that in the near future stricter guidelines could be implemented.  Please reference below charts for both the JNC blood pressure guidelines and ACA lifestyle changes that can maintain healthy a blood pressure and assist in lowering elevated levels. Early detection is the key to avoiding acute hypertensive crisis and secondary co-morbidities associated with long term hypertension exposure. There are blood pressure stations located throughout campus (see map below), at local area pharmacies and you are always welcome to come to the Indiana University Health Center to have your blood pressure checked (no charge if for BP check only). The Health Center also offers Nutrition Counseling with Registered Dieticians through the Health and Wellness Department (first visit free to students who paid a health fee; call 812 855 7338) for details. You are additionally welcome to make an appointment with one of the Health Center medical providers for further discussion regarding your blood pressure.

Make changes that matter:



Systolic Reading

Diastolic Reading






Check every 2 years





Check every year

Stage 1 hypertension




See your physician or other healthcare provider for advice

Stage 2 hypertension




See your physician or other healthcare provider for advice








Further Information on Blood Pressure Available at the Following Sites:

The UpToDate medical data base that can be linked from the IU Health Center website under ‘get health answers’ topic

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)

Blood Pressure and Scales Map IU Campus