Our health is measured by many numbers: cholesterol, blood sugar and body mass index are just a few. For most of us, the actual numbers aren’t as important as knowing our numbers are within a healthy range.
The James Family Heart Center at Dignity Health Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC) wants to arm you with information to manage and monitor your blood pressure.
Why the focus on managing blood pressure? High blood pressure affects one in three American adults and only 54 percent of them have it under control. High blood pressure has earned the name of “silent killer” because early-on there are no obvious symptoms or signs associated with it. Additionally, untreated high blood pressure can lead to heart disease, stroke and kidney failure.
What do your blood pressure numbers mean?
Blood pressure consists of two numbers:
- Systolic – The top number indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls when your heart beats.
- Diastolic – The bottom number measures the pressure against your artery walls while your heart is resting between beats.
What do these two numbers mean for your health? Here’s what you need to know:
- Normal blood pressure (less than 120/80) – Have your blood pressure checked at least every two years or as frequently as your health care provider recommends.
- Borderline high pressure or prehypertension (between 120/80 and 140/90) – Check your blood pressure at least every year, or more often, if your health care provider recommends it. If you have other medical issues, even a borderline reading may be considered too high.
- 140/90 or higher – You have high blood pressure and need to see your health care provider to develop a treatment plan.
If you have high blood pressure that’s untreated for a period of time, there can be warning signs. Get help immediately if you have high blood pressure and are experiencing the following symptoms:
- Weight loss/hair loss
- Blurred vision
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Intense headaches
Tips for taking your blood pressure
Want to monitor your blood pressure between medical appointments? This can be a good way to ensure your blood pressure is at healthy levels.
Many pharmacies have blood pressure monitors or you may want to invest in a home blood pressure monitor kit. Either way, use the same monitor each time you take your blood pressure. Here are some hints for taking your blood pressure:
- Always use the same arm and place the cuff on bare skin.
- Take up to three readings each time to ensure accuracy.
- Measure before eating and exercising but not right after you wake up.
- No caffeine, food, alcohol or tobacco 30 minutes before taking your blood pressure.
Look at your lifestyle
If you smoke, giving up tobacco is a good way to lower your blood pressure and improve your overall health. If you consume alcohol, do so in moderation or not at all. Eating a healthy diet and getting regular aerobic exercise are also good lifestyle habits that can help reduce your blood pressure.
To learn more about high blood pressure, talk to your health care provider. For information about YRMC, visit DignityHealth.org/YRMC.
Submitted by Dignity Health Yavapai Regional Medical Center.