A blood pressure chart is a valuable tool to help you track your numbers and better understand what they mean for your health. Blood pressure is important because the higher it is, the more you are at risk for chronic illness.
Charts compare your blood pressure to a range of categories that doctors use to determine your risk of disease and make treatment recommendations. By knowing your numbers, you can take steps to improve them and lower the threat.
Tracking your numbers and using a chart to know where you stand is easy, but it’s also vital to learn more about why blood pressure matters.
What Is Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries. The top number, your systolic blood pressure, shows how much is force is exerted each time your heart squeezes, pumping blood to the rest of your body. The second number, your diastolic blood pressure, tells you how much the arterial pressure is between beats when your heart is resting. If your blood pressure is too high, it’s called hypertension.
What Are The Symptoms Of Hypertension?
Hypertension is known as the “silent killer” because it has no symptoms in its early stages. While it’s treatable, damage to the body begins early and may be irreversible if it’s not caught in time. This makes checking your blood pressure as part of routine physicals very important.
Why Blood Pressure Matters
When blood pressure is too high, it forces the heart to work harder. Over time, this can cause your heart muscle to grow weak and your arteries to become thick and less flexible, affecting every organ in your body including your kidneys and brain.
High blood pressure plays a part in all of these conditions:
• Heart attack or heart failure
• Kidney Disease
• Dementia and memory loss
• Retinopathy leading to blindness
• Eclampsia — a serious pregnancy complication
• Aneurysm — a bulging blood vessel that can burst
• Atherosclerosis — hardening of the arteries
• Blood clots
Hypertension is the single most significant risk factor for heart disease, heart failure, kidney disease and stroke. The good news is that there are effective treatments including diet, exercise and medications.
Blood Pressure Categories
There are five blood pressure categories:
• Normal — systolic blood pressure below 120 and diastolic blood pressure below 80
• Prehypertension — systolic blood pressure from 120-139 and diastolic blood pressure from 80-89
• Stage 1 Hypertension — systolic blood from 140-159 and diastolic blood pressure from 90-99
• Stage 2 Hypertension — systolic blood pressure over 160 and diastolic blood pressure over 100
• Hypertensive Crisis — systolic blood pressure higher than 180 and diastolic blood pressure over 100
Since blood pressure is different from day to day and is affected by factors that can vary like diet, exercise and stress, your doctor will look for a pattern of high readings when considering treatment recommendations.
If one reading is high, your doctor will want to see you more often and may recommend you track your blood pressure at home. If your blood pressure is consistently high, he or she will discuss treatment based on established criteria for your category and other individual factors.
The exception to this is if your blood pressure is so high that it’s considered a hypertensive crisis. It’s rare, but is a medical emergency that if left untreated, could result in permanent organ damage or death.
Blood Pressure Goals
Because of the significant health consequence of hypertension, a normal blood pressure is always the goal.
If you have prehypertension, your doctor will likely start by recommending changes in your lifestyle that could control it without medication. This may include things like quitting smoking, changing your diet, losing weight and getting more exercise. If that’s not enough, your doctor may suggest medication.
In most cases, if you are already at Stage 1 or 2 Hypertension, medicine will be prescribed to get your blood pressure under control as quickly as possible to avoid long-term damage while you work on lifestyle changes.
Each individual, however, is unique and the doctor will make treatment decisions based on your age, current health, health history and lifestyle considerations.
What You Can Do To Maintain Healthy Blood Pressure Without Medication
Lifestyle plays a big role in preventing or managing hypertension. Medication is sometimes needed despite best efforts, but often, these simple changes can delay or even eliminate the need for a prescription:
• Watch your weight. If it’s normal, maintain it. If you are overweight, even losing a small amount has a beneficial effect.
• Get regular physical activity. At least 30 minutes each day 5-6 days per week is recommended.
• Eat a well-balanced diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.
• Drink alcohol only in moderation. One drink a day for women, or two a day for men is a good general guideline.
• Reduce stress, especially if it makes you turn to alcohol or unhealthy food for comfort. Make time to rest, relax and enjoy your favorite activities.
• Don’t skip regular check-ups. Early detection of high blood pressure is critical.
• If you smoke, quit. It reduces blood pressure almost immediately.
• Cut back on caffeine. If you’re accustomed to it, decrease your consumption by a serving or two. If you’re not, avoid it.
• Monitor your blood pressure at home. Ask your doctor to recommend how often you should check it and keep track of your readings to share.
Make it a practice to know your numbers. If your blood pressure is normal and you live a healthy lifestyle, keep up the good work! If it’s high, follow your treatment plan and always take your medication, even if you have no worrisome symptoms. Together, you and your doctor can stop this silent killer.