Blood pressure corresponds to the “force” exerted by blood on the arterial walls. This figure is normal when it is less than 120/80 mm Hg. In the case of hypertension, we speak of different degrees according to values of 130/80 mm Hg or higher.
What is blood pressure or pressure?
Blood pressure is the force that blood exerts against the walls of the arteries when it is pumped by the heart. It is expressed in millimeters of mercury (mm of Hg).
During your measurement, two numbers are recorded: the first, called systolic blood pressure (or maximum), which corresponds to the moment when the heart contracts and pumps, pushing the blood through the arteries. The second digit, called diastolic blood pressure (or minimum), is the pressure that occurs when the heart relaxes and fills with blood.
The result of this measurement is usually expressed by placing the number of the systolic blood pressure over the value of the diastolic blood pressure.
Normal blood pressure for adults is stated as a systolic pressure of less than 120 and a diastolic pressure of less than 80, which is expressed as 120/80.
Measurement and values
Blood pressure measurements fall into these general categories:
- Hypotension: Less than 90/60.
- Normal: Below 120/80 mm Hg.
- Stage 1 hypertension: It corresponds to a systolic pressure between 130 and 139 mm Hg or a diastolic pressure of 80 to 89 mm Hg.
- Stage 2 hypertension: This is more severe hypertension, with systolic pressure values of 140 mm Hg or higher, or a diastolic pressure of 90 mm Hg or higher.
Both values in one measurement are very important, but after age 50 the systolic value is more significant.
The isolated systolic hypertension is a disorder in which the diastolic pressure is normal (less than 80 mm Hg), but the systolic pressure is high (greater than or equal to 130 mm Hg).
This type of arterial hypertension (HTN) is common among people over 65 years of age, basically due to the hardening of the arterial walls.
On the opposite side, if the pressure is lower than 90/60, the person suffers from low blood pressure or hypotension.
Factors influencing blood pressure
Blood pressure can vary from person to person. In addition, there may be various associated risk factors. For example:
- The genetic: You are more likely to be hypertensive if you have a family history.
- Sex: In early adulthood, men are more likely to have HT than women. On the other hand, from the age of 55, the female sex presents a greater risk.
- Age: It is known that from the age of 60 the risk of being hypertensive increases, due to the hardening of the blood vessels.
Diagnosis of HT
To make a diagnosis of HT, a doctor should take two or three blood pressure measurements in each of the three or more doctor visits that the patient performs.
This is because this value normally varies throughout the day and may be higher during visits to the doctor (white coat hypertension).
Overall blood pressure should be measured in both arms to determine if there is a difference.
The doctor may ask the patient to record his blood pressure at home to provide additional information and confirm a picture of HBP.
When in doubt, the doctor may recommend ambulatory monitoring, through the use of a device that measures blood pressure at regular intervals, over a 24-hour period.
In case of having HT, the doctor will review the medical history and perform a detailed physical examination.
It is usual to request routine check upsuch as a urine and blood lipid test, and an electrocardiogram, which measures the electrical activity of the heart.
Blood pressure, symptoms and complications
HTA can lead to serious health problems, such as cerebrovascular accident (CVA), cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney failure, eye disease, breathing difficulties when a person does light physical activities, dizziness when standing up too quickly and falls.
It should be clarified that the pressure varies in response to certain situations, so the risk of suffering a stroke must be based on the lack of adequate control of blood pressure and not on its variations.
With hypotension, the person may feel faint, weak, dizzy, or even feel like they are going to pass out.
How can I control my blood pressure?
Blood pressure can be controlled in most people by making lifestyle changes and taking medications prescribed by a doctor.
If the doctor asks a patient to measure their blood pressure at home, they should consider the following:
- Ask for advice on which monitor suits the person’s needs and how it should be used.
- Bring the monitor to the doctor’s office to have it checked and made sure it is working properly.
- Avoid smoking, exercising, and consuming caffeine 30 minutes before taking your blood pressure.
- Sit with your feet on the floor without crossing them, and with your back leaning against the chair or wall.
- Be quietly relaxed for 5 minutes before taking the measurement.
- Maintain a list with the blood pressure values obtained, the time of measurement, date and time of the medication (in case of taking a drug).