By: Karen Yontz Center Staff
Having a healthy blood pressure is one of the best ways you can keep your heart healthy. But we might not understand what blood pressure is exactly or why it’s so important. We might not know what our blood pressure should be and how to keep it that way. The Karen Yontz Center wants you to empower you with knowledge when it comes to your blood pressure and what it means for your heart. Here are answers to some of the most common questions we receive about blood pressure.
Q: What is the difference between the top and bottom numbers in my blood pressure reading?
A: The top number (systolic pressure) is the amount of pressure your blood is putting against your artery walls when your heart beats. The bottom number (diastolic pressure) indicates how much pressure your blood is putting on your artery walls when your heart is resting between beats. Think of it like a wave pool at a water park—your systolic pressure is the pressure the water puts on the walls of the pool when a wave comes through. Your diastolic pressure is the pressure of the water on the walls of the pool when it’s still. While doctors tend to focus on your systolic blood pressure when making a diagnosis of high blood pressure (HBP or hypertension), elevated systolic or diastolic pressure alone may be used to make and HBP diagnosis.
Q: What should my blood pressure numbers be?
A: Generally, doctors would prefer that a person’s blood pressure stay below 120/80 mmHg. However, there are variables that may impact someone’s unique blood pressure range; for example, an underlying medical condition such as diabetes or chronic disease. It is important to talk to your doctor about what your personal ideal blood pressure should be.
Q: What is the difference between Stage 1 High Blood Pressure (HBP) and Stage 2 High Blood Pressure (HBP)?
A: Someone with Stage 1 HBP has a systolic pressure of 130-139mmHg OR a diastolic between 80-89 mmHg. Treatment options for this diagnosis depend on whether a patient has heart disease and whether she has a risk of developing heart disease in the next 10 years. If she doesn’t have heart disease and a 10% or less chance of developing it in the next 10 years, the diagnosis is most often lifestyle changes like diet, exercise, and decreased salt and fat. If she does have one or both of those risks, it is likely that medication will also be given along with the lifestyle changes. Someone who has Stage 2 HBP has a systolic pressure over 140 mmHg and/or a diastolic pressure over 90 mmHg. These patients, regardless of their heart disease risk, will be put on medication and told to make lifestyle changes like the ones mentioned above.
Q: What does High Blood Pressure (HBP) actually do to my heart?
A: Uncontrolled HBP can damage the arteries in your body. These arteries can either become stiff or they can become blocked. When this happens, blood may be prevented from getting to the muscles and tissues of the heart, otherwise known as a heart attack. HBP can also cause the heart to have to work harder to pump blood to all parts of the body. This increased workload can make the heart enlarged and can ultimately lead to heart failure. Even if these things don’t happen, HBP can over time lead to heart disease which can raise your risk for any number of potentially catastrophic health events.
Q: How can I find out what my blood pressure is?
A: Simple! The Karen Yontz Center provides FREE blood pressure screenings Monday-Friday between 8:00AM and 4:30PM. No appointment is needed, so stop on in. Your physician is also a great resource to find out your blood pressure.