Understanding Your Blood Pressure Results

Your blood pressure results are an important way of keeping track of your blood pressure history. Blood pressure readings help your health care professional determine...


  • how well your heart and particularly your left ventricle is working as a pump...and
  • the amount of resistance encountered by your blood as it is forced through your arteries.

Your blood pressure reading can also potentially indicate..

  • The reduction of cross sectional diameter in your arterial system due to the build up of plaque in your arteries and.. 
  • loss of elasticity of the arterial wall as a result of the presence of that plaque.

This is what tends to happen as people age and may be at least partly responsible for the gradual rise in average blood pressure results throughout the average lifetime.

Having your blood pressure taken does not of course allow your health care professional to see inside your heart or your arteries but rather is a collection of number based evidence over the course of several readings that can indicate whether your heart and circulation is operating normally or outside of the normal range.


Do you know what your blood pressure is?

Here's why you need to know.

According to the British heart foundation...

The risk of developing Coronary Heart Disease is directly related to your blood pressure results.

For example: If you are between the ages of 40 and 69 then for every increase of 20mmHg in your systolic blood pressure reading and 10mmHg in your diastolic reading your risk of death from coronary heart disease will double.

because an elevated blood pressure can be well controlled using a number of strategies, I'm sure you agree that having a blood pressure check makes a lot of sense.


Do you know how to read blood pressure results?

It's simple enough to understand your own blood pressure readings and is really beneficial when you are taking steps to control your blood pressure....there's no point aiming for something without a target!


Units of measurement:

Blood pressure units of measurement are commonly represented as millimeters of mercury shown like this...

mmHg

Although a lot of devices for measuring blood pressure now use digital electronics and displays, for many years blood pressure results were obtained by using a device called a Mercury Sphygmomanometer. The display readout on this device is a mercury column with a graduated measuring scale.

Although the blood pressure results units that you are probably familiar with are expressed in mmHg it is also possible to measure blood pressure in Kilopascals or KPa.


Two different numbers:

When you have your blood pressure taken, two different numbers will be measured and recorded.

Systolic: The bigger or higher number. This represents the arterial pressure created when the heart contracts and pumps blood to the body.

Diastolic: The smaller or lower number. This represents the arterial pressure created when the heart relaxes between beats.

The systolic pressure is stated first...

So, your blood pressure results may look like this for example:

120/80..spoken 120 over 80, the systolic being 120 and your diastolic being 80. This is an example of a normal blood pressure reading or normal blood pressure values.


Blood pressure averages related to your age

Usually, as you age your blood pressure results gradually begin to increase. All the mechanisms that affect this increase are not fully understood but the following are known to play a part.

  • Age-related changes in hormone activity and profile
  • An accumulation of poor dietary choices
  • Insufficient physical exercise
  • Atheromatous plaque in the walls of arteries
  •  Decreased efficiency of the heart


Here is a table that will give you an idea where your blood pressure should be with respect to your age.


Men 16-24yrs 25-34yrs 35-44yrs 45-54yrs 55-64yrs 65-74yrs 75+
Systolic Blood pressure - SBP 128 131 133 133 137 140 141
Diastolic Blood Pressure - DBP 65 72 76 76 76 73 68
Women 16-24yrs 25-34yrs 35-44yrs 45-54yrs 55-64yrs 65-74 yrs 75+
Systolic Blood Pressure - SBP 117 118 121 127 133 140 144
Diastolic Blood Pressure - DBP 67 69 72 73 74 72 70
*Statistics courtesy of the British Heart Foundation.


A normal blood pressure range for a healthy adult should be between 140/90mmHg and 90/60mmHg.

If you get consistent blood pressure results of over 140/90mmHg for a period of time (blood pressure readings being taken weekly for several weeks or months to see a trend)then your health care professional is likely to diagnose you with High Blood Pressure.

If you happen to have Diabetes or kidney disease then the threshold for high blood pressure drops to 130/80mmHg.

Besides your Systolic and diastolic blood pressure results being recorded, two additional values may also be determined at the time of your blood pressure check.


Mean Arterial Pressure - MAP:

This pressure is the average pressure that forces blood through your arteries. It is not the average of the systolic and diastolic pressure though but is more to do with a balanced state that exists momentarily between the compressive and expansive forces that act on your arterial walls.

MAP is considered to be the blood flow pressure that is 'seen' by organs in your body

A MAP that is greater than 60 mmHg is considered to be sufficient to provide enough pressure to enable nutrient rich blood to reach the tissues of body organs - allowing them to function correctly.

Body organs can become ischemic if the MAP is too low over a period of time.

Here is a way to estimate your MAP

MAP approximately = Diastolic pressure + 1/3 (systolic pressure - diastolic pressure)


Pulse rate per minute:

Your pulse rate per minute may also be determined when your blood pressure is measured. Your pulse rate is actually your heart rate. A normal average resting heart rate or BPM is around 72. It's ok to be higher or lower as a range of 60-100 bpm is considered normal.


Your blood pressure results can help you keep your health on track.

If your health care professional takes your blood pressure and doesn't tell you what the results are, don't forget to ask. You have every right to know - if you'd like to of course. Keep a record of the results for yourself and follow any professional therapeutic and lifestyle modification advice that your health care professional gives you.

You might also like to consider monitoring your own blood pressure at home, especially if you always feel tense when your in a Doctors office. This can have the effect of elevating your blood pressure when measured by a health care professional and actually has a name - White Coat Hypertension!

Anxiety and high blood pressure can go hand in hand so learn to relax!

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