Blood Pressure Readings

October 20, 2023
Picture of a medical provider taking a patient's blood pressure.

Blood pressure is a vital indicator of your overall health, and at PhysicianOne Urgent Care, we’re here to help you manage yours by providing free readings and information about interpreting your blood pressure reading. We have locations throughout Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York for your convenience.

Understanding Blood Pressure Readings

Blood pressure readings are generally presented as one number ‘over’ another. The first number is your systolic reading, which measures blood pressure in your arteries as the heart beats and pumps blood throughout the body. The second number is your diastolic reading, or the blood pressure in your arteries between heartbeats, as your heart chambers are refilling. Both systolic and diastolic pressure are measured in mmHg, or millimeters of mercury. There are five general categories of blood pressure, as outlined by the American Heart Association:

  • Normal blood pressure – Blood pressure is below 120/80 mmHg (systolic pressure is less than 120 mmHg and diastolic pressure is less than 80 mmHg)
  • Elevated blood pressure – Systolic pressure is between 120-129 mmHg and diastolic pressure is less than 80 mmHg
  • Stage 1 hypertension – Systolic pressure is between 130-139 mmHg or diastolic pressure is between 80-89 mmHg
  • Stage 2 hypertension – Systolic pressure is 140 mmHg or higher or diastolic pressure is 90 mmHg or higher
  • Hypertensive crisis – Systolic pressure is higher than 180 mmHg and/or diastolic pressure is higher than 120 mmHg

Talk to your doctor about how often you should have your blood pressure tested. If your blood pressure is higher than average, you may need to measure it more frequently than people who do not have high blood pressure.

Risk Factors for High Blood Pressure

Approximately one third of adults in the United States have some degree of hypertension. The following are some common risk factors that can lead to high blood pressure:

  • A diet high in salt, fat, and/or cholesterol
  • Chronic medical conditions such as kidney and hormone problems, diabetes, and high cholesterol
  • Family history of high blood pressure
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Aging
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Stress
  • Tobacco use or drinking too much alcohol

Symptoms of High Blood Pressure

Most people with high blood pressure do not have any symptoms. This is why it’s sometimes called “the silent killer” and why it is so important to have your blood pressure checked regularly. If left untreated, hypertension can damage many parts of the body and increase a person’s risk for stroke, heart disease, and kidney failure.

However, people with very high blood pressure (180/120 mmHg or higher) can experience symptoms such as:

  • Headaches
  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Back pain
  • Numbness/weakness
  • Blurred vision or other vision changes
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Confusion
  • Buzzing in ears
  • Nosebleeds
  • Abnormal heart rhythm

How to Lower Your Blood Pressure

The following lifestyle changes can positively impact your blood pressure if your readings are elevated:

  • Quit tobacco if you use it – Every cigarette you smoke temporarily increases your blood pressure. In addition, smoking also causes long-term damage to blood vessels increasing the chance of developing problems like stroke, heart disease, and heart attack.
  • Eat less salt (sodium) – If you have high blood pressure, even a small reduction in your sodium intake can reduce blood pressure by about 5-6 mmHg. The effect of sodium on blood pressure varies among groups of people. In general, limit sodium to 2,300 milligrams (mg) a day or less. In some people, an even lower sodium intake of 1,500 mg a day is preferred.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight – For every pound lost, you could decrease your systolic blood pressure by up to 1 mmHg.
  • Exercise – Try to get about 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week. This can lower your blood pressure by about 5-8 mmHg if you have high blood pressure.
  • Eat a healthy diet – A diet that is low in saturated fats and rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and nonfat dairy can help lower your blood pressure. This diet is known as the DASH diet.
  • Limit alcohol intake – Limit your drinking to two drinks per day for men, and one drink per day for women. One drink is equal to 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of liquor.

If your blood pressure is particularly high, your doctor may recommend medication in combination with lifestyle changes to help bring it down to healthier levels.

Visit PhysicianOne Urgent Care for Accurate Blood Pressure Readings

You can have your blood pressure measured at PhysicianOne Urgent Care centers in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York. If your blood pressure is high, making lifestyle changes such as increasing exercise, quitting smoking, and losing weight can be very effective in reducing or even eliminating hypertension.

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