What is Blood Pressure?
As the blood is pumped from the heart, it travels through the body through a network of arteries. A force is created by the heart that is transferred to the arteries. This force, or pressure, is necessary to keep blood flowing throughout the body and is reflective of your cardiovascular health. Elevated blood pressure is known as hypertension.
Measuring Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is measured in two parts: one number (or systolic) over another number (or diastolic). When your blood pressure is taken, the cuff is blocking off blood flow through the main artery in the arm. The systolic reading (top number) is the pressure at which blood starts flowing through the artery. Keep in mind that the artery is still partially occluded, meaning that the blood is not flowing through a completely open artery. The diastolic reading (bottom number) is the pressure when blood is flowing freely through the artery.
Blood pressure should be lower then 120/80 (read as 120 over 80). Prehypertension is now defined as 120-139/80-89. This is not yet considered to be high blood pressure, but doctors will want to watch it carefully to make sure it doesn’t get higher. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is considered to be 140/90. Typically, high blood pressure is diagnosed when there are two different high readings at least 2 months apart.
Prevention and Treatment
Preventing high blood pressure starts with living a healthy lifestyle. Keeping your weight within the healthy range, following a low-fat, low-salt diet and exercising routinely are all actions that you can take now. If that doesn’t seem to be effective, or if you are still having high blood pressure, your physician can prescribe medications to help you control it. Many different types of medications can be used, including diuretics, calcium channel blockers, ACE inhibitors and beta blockers.
Calcium Channel Blockers
McCance, Kathryn L. and Huether, Sue E. Understanding Pathophysiology. Mosby. St. Louis MO, 2003.