Blood Pressure and Heart Health
February is the month America is supposed to focus on their heart health. In honor of this month (and the importance) I am going to be updating this blog posts with more information about how your blood pressure relates to the healthiness of your heart. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for American women and men, accounting for 1 in 4 deaths in the United States. Nearly half of Americans have at least one risk factor for heart disease , such as high blood pressure, obesity, physical inactivity, or an unhealthy diet. Risk also increases with age.
Learn what’s considered normal, as recommended by the American Heart Association.
This TED Talk really helps break it down, in English!
- Systolic blood pressure (the upper number) — indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls when the heart beats.
- “How much it takes to pump blood around your body through your arteries”
- Diastolic blood pressure (the lower number) — indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls while the heart is resting between beats.
- “Heart at rest between beats”
mm Hg (upper #)
mm Hg (lower #)
|Normal||less than 120||and||less than 80|
|Prehypertension||120 – 139||or||80 – 89|
|High Blood Pressure
(Hypertension) Stage 1
|140 – 159||or||90 – 99|
|High Blood Pressure
(Hypertension) Stage 2
|160 or higher||or||100 or higher|
(Emergency care needed)
|Higher than 180
||or||Higher than 110|
Health Risk Calculator here.
There are a lot of interactive animations you can play with to learn more from here, even specific to blood pressures.
Taking Your Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is a measure of the pressure on the inside of the artery walls, generated during the contraction and relaxation of the ventricles. When the ventricles contract to force blood out into the arteries, systolic pressure (the top number) is recorded. Diastolic pressure is the bottom number, recorded when the ventricles are relaxed and filling with blood from the atria.
The sphygmomanometer is the gauge which records the numbers that become your blood pressure. This module explains in step-by-step fashion how the traditional blood pressure test works (MOST ACCURATE). Follow the steps to see and hear how your blood pressure score is generated.
Blood Pressure Best Practices
- Put your feet on the floor and straighten your back with arms supported at heart level
- Take twice a day (don’t let it consume your life, but two readings a day can give your doctor a lot of clues)
- Validate accuracy – compare the results of your electronic monitor with that of a manual (more accurate reading). Simply bring in the monitor you brought to your doctor’s office and see how their results compare.
- DABL Educational Trust and the British Hypertension Society also frequently test home blood pressure monitors for accuracy <= buy from the list here
- Make sure you’re doing it correctly!
- A full bladder can increase blood pressure slightly
- Avoid food, caffeine, tobacco and alcohol for 30 minutes
- Sit quietly with your feet on the floor, legs not crossed
- Use the same arm each time
- Arm cuffs are more accurate than wrist or finger cuffs. DID NOT CONSIDER but studies about hypertension are focused on the main arteries in your arms…measuring arm cuffs keep it relevant.
Monitoring Your Blood Pressure
The first thing your doctor is going to do is ask you what your blood pressure has been, over time. There are lots of different more automated and manual ways to record your blood pressure over time. You won’t regret it either. No matter how inconvenient you might view it, nothing but numbers can really help create a good game plan.
Blood Pressure Options
- Google Sheets template – a quick Google search returned this only spreadsheet template that you can easily add in your own dates and blood pressure readings over time. It will automatically color numbers that are warning and graph out over time. It will automatically average all of your Systolic, Diastolic, and Pulse readings as well. Mobile phone users can access from their device or desktop computer, making it easier to access from home.
- Withings – is an incredible suite of health monitoring apps and products that are beautifully surfaced and integrated. There are a lot of recommendations around taking your blood pressure with an arm cuff (versus a wrist band that might not be as accurate, especially if people don’t take readings as precisely) you can still use this app to import or monitor your blood pressure.
Learn More Socially
I think it is also important to remember that there are a lot of people ready to support you. Medical professionals who want to answer your questions, people who have already gone through heart health, and those supporting their families and friends.
- Like The Heart Foundation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and SHARE the postings with your friends. #HeartToHeart
- A heart attack happens when the blood supply to the heart is cut off. Cells in the heart muscle that do not receive enough oxygen-carrying blood begin to die. The more time that passes without treatment to restore blood flow, the greater the damage to the heart.
- Every year about 750,000 Americans have a heart attack. Of these, 550,000 are a first heart attack and 200,000 happen in people who have already had a heart attack.1
- About 15% of people who have a heart attack will die from it.1
- Almost half of sudden cardiac deaths happen outside a hospital.2
- Having high blood pressure or high blood cholesterol, smoking, having had a previous heart attack or stroke, or having diabetes can increase your chance of developing heart disease and having a heart attack.
The National Heart Attack Alert Program notes these major signs of a heart attack:
- Chest pain or discomfort. Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center or left side of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. The discomfort can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
- Discomfort in other areas of the upper body. Can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
- Shortness of breath. Often comes along with chest discomfort. But it also can occur before chest discomfort.
- Other symptoms. May include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or light-headedness.
If you think that you or someone you know is having a heart attack, you should call 911 immediately.