We’ve all been to the doctor and had our arms wrapped in that black, cold plastic-like fabric with the Velcro on the end. As the doctor or nurse pumps down on that ball and it gets tighter, they’re attempting to measure our blood pressure. Sure, this is something we all know and have all been through. But what exactly is the purpose of knowing one’s blood pressure and what sort of implications does blood pressure have?
To define it simply, blood pressure is a measurement of the force which your blood pushes against your artery walls. Blood pressure numbers vary in most people, and they’re usually confusing because you have two numbers (130/90 for example). There are two numbers here because your blood is measured two ways.
- The higher of the two, is known as the systolic pressure.
- The lower number is the diastolic pressure.
The reason for the two separate measurements has to do with the two ways in which your blood is pressurized. The first way, the systolic pressure, occurs when the heart pumps and forces the blood through the arteries. The second pressure reading, the diastolic pressure, is a measurement of the amount of force generated when your heart is at rest or when blood flow is resisted.
Healthy adults should have a blood pressure reading of 120/80 or lower. Anything exceeding this becomes prehypertension or hypertension and anything much lower than the average is referred to as hypotension. There’s also a little bit of confusion with the letters some people see after the numbers. For example, the blood pressure may read as 120/80 mmHg. This is simply an abbreviation for millimeters of mercury – that’s how your blood is measured.
Blood Pressure Problems
Unfortunately for many individuals who have suffered heart attack or strokes due to high blood pressure, there are usually no symptoms associated with the affliction. Because of this, hypertension or high blood pressure in general has been dubbed the “silent killer”. Common precursors to heart attack will not show up with high blood pressure, but heart disease can certainly result from untreated blood pressure problems.
Periodic checkups are really the only way to ensure that your blood pressure is at a healthy level. In order to keep your blood pressure healthy, proper diet and exercise is also essential. There are also many various types of prescription drugs on the market offered for patients with high blood pressure. Overall, however, they still won’t do much good unless the person is willing to eat right and to exercise more.
Although hypotension, in definition, is hypertension’s polar opposite, they’re rather similar in the way they present themselves in the body. Like hypertension, hypotension usually displays no symptoms. This means a person can live their entire life with hypotension and never even know it. Unlike hypertension, however, hypotension isn’t really severe. In extremely rare cases, and hypotension is already a rare occurrence, the patient can have some serious side effects, but we’re mostly talking about bouts of dizziness and possible fainting.
Depending on the level of hypotension, the condition may not require any treatment at all. If it’s serious enough that it needs treatment, however, a doctor will usually just suggest that a patient up the sodium content of their diet and drink more water.
If these measures fail, then there are a few prescription drugs available on the market to raise blood pressure.