What Is Normal Blood Pressure?

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The ideal blood pressure reading is 120/80 mmHg. If your blood pressure is too high, or “hypertensive” in medical terms, your heart has to work harder to circulate blood. This causes atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), which increases the risk of stroke, heart, and kidney disease. Some doctors diagnose hypertension when blood pressure is consistently over 140/90 mmHg. Other doctors consider readings of 130/90 mmHg or higher to be hypertensive, based on more recent (2017) guidelines

High Blood Pressure

According to the American Heart Association, blood pressure is high when the systolic blood pressure (SBP) is 120-129 mmHg, and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) is more than 80 mmHg. Stage 1 hypertension is when SBP is between 130-139, and DBP is between 80-89 mmHg. Stage 2 hypertension is when SBP is over 140 mmHg, or DBP is over 90 mmHg. 

Lastly, a hypertensive crisis occurs when the SBP is over 180 mmHg, and/or DBP is over 120 mmHg. This requires immediate medical attention.

SBP is the best prediction of future cardiovascular events. However, recent research shows that diastolic blood pressure is also important. This is particularly true for those under 50.

Low Blood Pressure  

There are also risks when blood pressure is too low (below 90 mmHg SBP or 60mmHG DBP). Hypotension can cause dizziness, fatigue, and fainting, all of which increase your risk of injury by fall. Severe low blood pressure can be life-threatening because the heart and brain can suffer from a lack of oxygen.

There are different forms of low blood pressure. Orthostatic or postural hypotension is a sudden drop in blood pressure that happens when you stand up from a sitting position or after lying down. Postprandial hypotension is a drop in blood pressure that happens 1-2 hours after eating and affects mostly older adults.

Normal Changes In Blood Pressure 

Blood pressure is typically lowest at night and increases quickly when you wake up. It also fluctuates throughout the day, depending on various factors. These factors include the position of your body, your breathing rhythm, and whether you’ve just eaten. The medication you take also influences your blood pressure, especially blood pressure and heart drugs. Antidepressants and anti-Parkinson drugs can also affect blood pressure. During exercise, it’s normal for SBP to rise to between 160 and 220 mmHg.

Blood pressure readings may show some differences from one area to another. Small blood differences (five points between the left and right arm) are not a concern. However, a doctor should examine any cases in which there is a significant difference (10-15 points). These cases can lead to complications.

For more information, read our article about how to take your own blood pressure at home.

How To Keep Your Blood Pressure In A Healthy Range

When you want to optimize your overall health in general (and your blood pressure in particular), your lifestyle matters. 

Maintain A Healthy Weight

Losing as little as 10 pounds can lower your blood pressure and ease the strain on the heart. A combination of regular exercise and a healthy diet can help you shed those extra pounds. 

The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet focuses on improving high blood pressure through diet. Studies show that in large, random, controlled trials to reduce blood pressure significantly. The Mediterranean and low carb diets have beneficial effects, helping improve hypertension and other cardiovascular risks. Low carb diets which include vitamin B12 and folate-rich foods may help improve low blood pressure. A nutritionist or dietician can suggest a custom diet based on your needs. 

Sleep Well

Numerous research studies show that sleep deprivation, short sleep duration, and persistent insomnia correlate with increased blood pressure. The reason appears to be related to inappropriate arousal due to the overactivation of stress system functions. Poor sleep also correlates with low blood pressure. Make sure you have a routine and try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even during the weekend. The best quality sleep happens between 10:30 pm and 2:00 am, so try to get as many hours as possible during this interval. Aim for a total of 7-8 hours sleep every night. 

Manage Stress

Stress leads to hypertension because it repeatedly raises blood pressure and stimulates the nervous system to produce higher amounts of hormones that raise your blood pressure. Scientists suggest that some types of stressors are more relevant to high blood pressure. These include white coat hypertension (when your blood pressure increases during a doctor’s visit), job strain, race, social environment, and emotional distress. Stress can also cause hypotension. Try yoga, mindfulness meditation, and deep breathing techniques.

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