High blood pressure can damage your blood vessels, heart, lungs and kidneys. Keeping your blood pressure within the normal range is important. But what’s normal? That depends on your age and other factors.
Blood Pressure Readings
Blood pressure is expressed in terms of two numbers. The top number is systolic blood pressure. This is the highest pressure and occurs when your heart actually beats. The second number is the diastolic. This reading shows blood pressure when your heart relaxes. Your blood pressure varies throughout the day. It is lower at night and rises shortly before you wake up. It peaks in the middle of the afternoon and then drops in the evening.
High and Low Blood Pressure
The generally accepted standard for “normal” blood pressure is 90/60 to less than120/80. If your blood pressure is consistently lower than 90/60, you have low blood pressure. Blood pressure between 120/80 and 140/90 is still considered normal. However, most doctors will recommend lifestyle changes if you are in that range. Above 140/90 is considered high blood pressure, or hypertension. Medications may be recommended for blood pressures in this range or above.
Aging, Sex and Blood Pressure
Blood pressure normally increases with age. This may be a protective effect to ensure the body gets adequate nutrients and oxygen. A healthy child of three might have a reading of 80/34. A healthy adult of 60 might have a reading closer to 134 over 87. Women normally have readings about 10 points lower than men.
Factors That Affect Blood Pressure
Many things affect your blood pressure. These tend to cause increased readings:
The three “S” rule – stress, smoking and sleep apnea increase blood pressure.
Genetics and family history – high blood pressure and heart disease often run in families.
Chronic kidney disease- damaged kidneys can’t filter blood properly.
Obesity and lack of exercise increase the risk of high blood pressure.
Salt – about one-quarter of the population is sensitive to salt.
What’s Normal for Me?
To determine what your normal blood pressure is, you must track it over time. A home blood pressure cuff is an inexpensive way to do this. Take readings at different times of day. Three or four readings a day will give you a good picture. Always follow directions and sit quietly for at least 5 minutes before taking a reading. After a month, average your readings. This is your normal blood pressure. Remember, people are different – your athletic brother and young child will have different readings than yours. If your readings are consistently high, visit your health care provider.
The staff at Shingletown Medical Center is proud to provide first-class care for you and your family.