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.

How is blood pressure measured?

Blood pressure 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).

When am I at risk?

If your resting blood pressure is consistently above the benchmark 120/80 resting rate, 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 both men and women, long term exposure to elevated blood pressure has also been found to be a cause earlier sexual dysfunction (erectile dysfunction in men and vaginal effects in women leading to decreased desire, arousal and difficulty achieving orgasm).

American Heart Association / American College of Cardiology Blood Pressure Guidelines
CategorySystolic Reading (upper number)and/orDiastolic Reading (lower number)
NormalLess than 120ANDLess than 80
Elevated120-129ANDLess than 80
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) Stage 1130-139OR80-89
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) Stage 2140 or higherOR90 or higher
Hypertension Crisis (consult your physician immediately)higher than 180AND/ORHigher than 120

Additional Resources

Further information on blood pressure available at the following sites:

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