Health Concerns: Understanding Your Blood Pressure Results

This article will help you to interpret your blood pressure results, and explain the numbers given in the measurement and where they come from.

High blood pressure is one of the greatest health concerns facing people today. Yet most people don't understand what blood pressure actually is, nor do they understand how to interpret the results of a blood pressure test once they get one.

What is blood pressure? Quite simply, it is the force exerted by the blood against the walls of blood vessels as it streams through the veins and arteries. This force depends on several factors, including the strength at which the heart is pumping and to what extent, if at all, the blood vessels have narrowed. If blood pressure is too low, blood will not reach all parts of the body efficiently; if too high, hypertension may exist, and the heart, blood vessels, and other organs may sustain damage. High blood pressure is by far a greater danger than too-low blood pressure, although extremely low blood pressure is quite dangerous, as well.

A standard blood pressure measurement returns two numbers. These numbers represent systolic pressure and diastolic pressure, and are frequently given as the number representing systolic pressure over the number representing diastolic pressure. For example, if your systolic pressure is 130, and diastolic pressure 90, your blood pressure would be expressed as 130 over 90, or 130/90.


Systolic pressure measures the force of the blood against the vessel walls when the heart is contracting; diastolic pressure measures the force when the heart is relaxed. This is why systolic pressure is always higher than diastolic pressure.

In theory, the ideal human blood pressure is 120/80. However, it is not a cause for alarm if your blood pressure is not exactly this measurement. In fact, it is rare to find people who have this precise measurement, in the same way that although 98.6 degrees is the ideal human temperature, not many people normally measure this exactly. Experts agree that a range of 100/65 to 140/90 is probably within a safe zone. However, anything higher than this may be cause for concern.

Here's a rough guideline to compare your blood pressure against:

Less than 130/Less than 85 - Normal blood pressure

130-140/85-90 - Borderline high blood pressure

140-160/90-100 - Mild Hypertension

160-180/100-110 - Moderate Hypertension

180-210/110-120 - Severe Hypertension

Above 210/Above 120 - Very Severe Hypertension

If your blood pressure results fit into any of the hypertension categories, it would be wise to talk with your doctor about ways to lower your blood pressure. Cigarette smoking, a sodium-rich diet, excessive use of alcohol, obesity, and a lack of exercise have all been linked to high blood pressure. Lifestyle also plays a major role, with high stress and poor stress management connected to hypertension. It is a good idea to sit down and really examine all the different parts of your life that may be contributing to your high blood pressure, and try to figure out in what ways you can improve your health. A change in diet, increased exercise, improved stress management, and doctor prescribed medicine are all ways to accomplish this. As always, check with your doctor before embarking on any radical exercise or diet plan.

Hypertension can be a frightening prospect. However, it is not irreversible. With the right attitude, a good doctor, and a lot of dedication, you can get your blood pressure back to normal. You'll feel a whole lot better.

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