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Heart Health Basics: Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is talked about a lot in our everyday lives. A nurse measures it every time we visit our doctor. Drug stores have kiosks where you can measure your blood pressure while you wait for your prescriptions. We even talk about it metaphorically in conversations. We say that controversial news or a stressful day might “get your blood pressure up”. But many people don’t really understand blood pressure and what it means for your overall health. Here is some basic information about how this common medical measurement affects your heart health.

What is Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure is the measurement of the force, or pressure, your blood exerts on the walls of your arteries. That measurement is expressed as two numbers, the systolic and diastolic readings. Your doctor or nurse will say the number as, for example, “120 over 80”. In this example, 120 is the systolic pressure, and 80 is the diastolic. Systolic pressure measures the force of your blood on your arteries when your heart contracts. Diastolic pressure measures the pressure between beats, or when your heart muscle is at rest.

What is Considered “Normal”?

The Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure has classified readings into four categories.

  • Normal: Systolic reading is less than 120 and diastolic pressure is less than 80.
  • Elevated: Systolic pressure is between 120 and 129 and diastolic pressure is still less than 80.
  • Hypertension Level 1: Systolic pressure is between 130 and 139 or diastolic pressure is between 80 and 89.
  • Hypertension Stage 2: Systolic pressure is 140 or greater or diastolic pressure is 90 or more.

If your blood pressure is in the normal range, congratulations! But that doesn’t mean you get to ignore your heart health. You should still focus your attention on maintaining or establishing heart healthy habits like regular aerobic exercise, a healthy diet, and quitting or reducing risky behaviors like smoking and drinking alcohol.

Risks and Treatments

High blood pressure means that your heart is working too hard to pump your blood, which causes many health problems. This can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, vision loss, and sexual dysfunction. Lifestyle change is usually the first treatment for high blood pressure. Studies show that quitting smoking, losing weight, eating a healthy diet, and getting regular aerobic exercise can lower your readings and risk of complications. If lifestyle changes aren’t enough, your doctor may also prescribe medication to help control your blood pressure. Medications such as ACE inhibitors, diuretics, angiotensin receptor blockers, beta blockers, alpha blockers, and calcium channel blockers may be used to help. 

We Can Help Lower Your Blood Pressure

At Brookhaven heart, our heart specialists are here to help you keep your heart healthy every step of the way. Whether you are looking for preventative support, or help with more advanced heart health concerns, we have the state of the art facilities and caring professionals to keep your heart vital and healthy. We are here for you in three convenient locations: East Patchogue, New Hyde Park, and Hicksville. Give us a call today to set up an appointment!