What is High Blood Pressure?
Your blood pressure is the force that moving blood puts on your artery walls. When your blood pressure is taken, two numbers are used to show it, like 120/80 (read 120 over 80).
The first, or top number, is called the systolic pressure. This is how much pressure is on your arteries when the heart pumps blood out to your body. The second, or bottom number, is called the diastolic pressure. This is how much pressure is there when your blood vessels relax to let the blood flow back into your heart.
Blood pressure levels are ranked in stages*. Each stage gives a range of blood pressure readings and tells how it ranks. The stages are:
Normal – Systolic less than 120 and Diastolic less than 80
Prehypertension – Systolic 120-139 or Diastolic 80-89
Stage 1 hypertension – Systolic 140-159 or Diastolic 90-99
Stage 2 hypertension – Systolic 160 or higher or Diastolic 100 or higher
*Based on guidelines from the JNC7 Report, May 2003.
What Affects Blood Pressure
Your blood pressure is a moving target. It can go up or down depending on what you are doing. For example:
- When you sleep, your blood pressure is often much lower. As you wake up and start moving around, it goes up.
- Talking, walking or eating can make your blood pressure go up, too.
- Sudden pain or stress can cause your blood pressure to rise in a few seconds.
- Exercising hard or getting excited can also raise your blood pressure.
- Smoking and drinking caffeine within 30 minutes of taking your blood pressure can also affect your blood pressure reading.
So, when you take your blood pressure, do it after you have rested quietly for at least 5 minutes. This allows your blood pressure to get back to what it normally is. Finding your normal blood pressure requires that you keep track of your blood pressure readings.
How to Take Your Blood Pressure
Read through these steps one or more times before starting.
- Sit in a quiet place near a table where you can place your arm and equipment comfortably.
- Wrap the blood pressure cuff around your bare arm (not over your clothes) an inch above the elbow. The cuff should fit snugly but with enough room so that one finger can be slipped under the cuff. Wrap the cuff evenly.
- Rest your elbow and lower arm on the table so that your upper arm is level with your heart. Stay still.
- Turn the power on.
- Squeeze the rubber bulb and inflate the cuff.* Inflate the cuff about 30 ??? 40 mmHg above your estimated systolic pressure. (This is the level of blood pressure that causes your radial pulse to disappear when the cuff is pumped up.)
- After you stop inflating, the automatic exhaust will slowly reduce the cuff pressure. The machine will show you systolic and diastolic pressures on the screen.
- Press or turn the exhaust button to release all of the air from the cuff.
- Fill in the blood pressure chart on back.
- Turn power off.
*Some cuffs don???t have a rubber bulb and inflate by themselves with the push of a button.Tags: blood pressure, bare arm, target, high blood pressure, drinking caffeine