High blood pressure is like many health conditions; each person will be able tolerate different ranges of blood pressure levels and they will have differing effects on each persons body. There are some guidelines that can help the medical community apply a standard approach dependent upon the blood pressure range they fit within.
This can be a bit of a blunt approach to the problem, as the point where elevated blood pressure (hypertension) becomes a problem is different for each person. But in general, as these guidelines are based on the average readings across a large population they can be considered as relatively accurate.
Interestingly, the numerical ranges that are used in different countries vary and are set by the medical community in each region. This is generally because some races have different tolerance and research has shown in those regions what is an acceptable risk.
In the US for people to be considered as having a “normal" blood pressure reading they would need to have a reading of 120 mm Hg or less for their systolic pressure and 80 mm Hg or less for their diastolic pressure.
It is worth noting that blood pressure levels can be naturally lower in children.
To clarify, the systolic reading is derived from the contraction of the heart and is a measure of the maximum pressure on the arteries during the time when the left ventricle of the heart contracts.
The diastolic reading is the measure of the blood pressure taken after the contraction has occurred. It should be the lowest arterial pressure reading during the cardiac cycle.
The mmHg references the way that blood pressure has historically been taken, and refers to millimetres of Mercury (chemical symbol Hg). A person's blood pressure has historically been measured through the use of a sphygmomanometer, which often has a glass, or plastic tube that contains mercury, which rises and falls dependent upon the arterial flow. Now electronic equipment is replacing the mercury filled devices, although the measurements used as still based around the older mercury system.
Normally a doctor will only diagnose a person suffering from hypertension after they have a number of readings that are elevated, as there are a number of factors that can influence readings, including medication, general health, exercise, coffee and tea and anxiety and stress. Therefore it is important to get a “true" reading over some time.
"White Coat" hypertension is one example of a condition when a faulty or skewed reading must be eliminated if there is going to be an accurate reading. This is when a person feels natural anxiety when visiting a surgery or the doctor, which has the effect of raising blood pressure temporarily.
There are a number of stages of hypertension, which can be identified as following.
Normal blood pressure levels - indicated by a systolic reading up to 120mmHg, and a diastolic reading up to 80mmHg.
A person is Pre-Hypertentive when they have a systolic reading of between 120mmHg - 139mmHg OR a diastolic reading of between 80mmHg - 89mmHg.
Stage 1 Hypertension is when a person has a systolic reading of between 140mmHg - 159mmHg OR a diastolic reading of between 90mmHg - 99mmHg
Stage 2 Hypertension is when a person has a systolic reading of between 160mmHg - 179mmHg OR a diastolic reading of between 100mmHg - 109mmHg
And stage 3 Hypertension is when a person has a systolic reading of 190mmHg or higher OR a diastolic reading of 110mmHg or higher.
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Obviously the higher the blood pressure range you are within, the more risk there is of a serious complications like stroke, heart attack or kidney problems.
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