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Do You Know What Your Blood Pressure Readings Represent?

blood pressure readings

What do your blood pressure readings mean? The only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to have it tested. Understanding your blood pressure readings is key to controlling high blood pressure. But, how do we read blood pressure? 

What’s your hypertension stage? 

Here are the guidelines for blood pressure range: 

Blood pressure category  Systolic mmHg (upper number)  and/or  Diastolic mmHg (lower number) 
Normal  Less than 120  And  Less than 80 
Elevated  120-129  And  Less than 80 
High blood pressure (hypertension) stage 1  130-139  Or  80-89 
High blood pressure (hypertension) stage 2  140 or higher  Or  90 or higher 
Hypertensive crisis (consult your doctor immediately)  Higher than 180  And/or  Higher than 120 

The abbreviation ‘mmHg’ stands for millimetres of mercury. Mercury is used in medicine as the standard unit of measurement for pressure.

Are blood pressure and pulse the same? 

Blood pressure and heart rate (pulse) are two separate measurements. Blood pressure refers to the force of your blood moving through your blood vessels, while your heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute. For those suffering from high blood pressure (also known as hypertension), measuring your blood pressure is the only way to diagnose yourself.

Heart rate and blood pressure do not necessarily increase at the same rate. For instance, when you are exercising, your heart speeds up so more blood can reach your muscles. It is possible for your heart rate to increase drastically, while your blood pressure responds by increasing only a moderate amount. Even though your heart is beating more times a minute, healthy blood vessels will dilate to allow more blood to flow through more easily. 

Optimal blood pressure 

Here are the optimal blood pressure goals as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO)

If your blood pressure is under control, a follow up should be done every 3-6 months. A monthly follow up after initiation of treatment should be done until you reach the target. 

When to start hypertension treatment 

You should go on hypertension medication if you have: 

Check your blood pressure at home 

Measuring and monitoring your own blood pressure is essential to achieving optimal blood pressure. Measure your blood pressure a few times a week using home blood pressure monitors. Here are some tips on how to choose and use a blood pressure monitor

How to choose 

  • Select an automated monitor with a cuff that self-inflates
  • Find a monitor that can plug into your smartphone to transfer the readings to an app, which then automatically creates a graph of your progress. Some monitors can also transfer data wirelessly to your phone. 
  • Choose a monitor that goes around your upper arm instead of your wrist or finger as they tend to be less accurate. 

How to use 

  • Avoid coffee, tea, or alcohol for at least 30 minutes before taking a reading. 
  • Support your arm so that your elbow is at or near heart level.
  • Sit quietly for 5 minutes with your back supported and legs uncrossed.
  • Wrap the cuff over bare skin.
  • Try not to talk during the measurement.
  • Wait a minute before taking the second reading. If the readings are close, sum them up together and average them. If not, repeat them again and average the 3 readings. 

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