What Do Your Blood Pressure Numbers Mean?

120/80 mm Hg is considered as the ideal blood pressure. Have you ever wondered what these two numbers mean?

Shubhangi Shah
Written by: Shubhangi ShahUpdated at: Jan 21, 2022 11:27 IST
What Do Your Blood Pressure Numbers Mean?

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Do you know that high blood pressure, or hypertension, is among the most common health issues in India? According to the National Family Health Survey (NFHS), 24% of men and 21% of women in the country have elevated heart rates. Not only that, as per a Lancet study, India has among the lowest hypertension diagnosis in the world. If you have ever got your blood pressure checked, you know it’s monitored based on two numbers, or rather a fraction of two numbers. Have you ever wondered what these two numbers mean? A clear idea of these can help you take care of it, which has a connection with your heart health, in a better way. Hence, to understand the meaning of the two blood pressure (BP) numbers, Onlymyhealth spoke to Dr Arvind Kaul, Associate Director, Cardiology, Paras Hospitals, Panchkula.

Meaning Of Blood Pressure Numbers

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is common in India

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When a doctor measures your blood pressure, he/she refers to two numbers, one higher than the other. The normal level is 120/80 mm Hg (millimetres of mercury). 

  • Top Number: This is the systolic pressure, which is the maximum pressure created in your arteries, Dr Kaul said. It’s the pressure exerted on your arteries by the blood when your heart contracts, in other words, beats.
  • Bottom Number: This is the diastolic pressure, which is the minimum pressure created in your arteries. It’s the pressure when your heart relaxes or doesn’t beat.

Quite understandably, your blood pressure is a reflection of your heart health, with the number higher than the normal range meaning that your heart has to work too hard to pump blood.

What Is The Ideal BP Number?

According to Dr Kaul, a BP number of 120/80 mm Hg is considered ideal. Anything higher than that means that your heart rate is elevated and vice versa. Hence, you must take steps to maintain your blood pressure around the ideal range, otherwise, you increase your risk of high or low pressure. Let us now look at the two health conditions one by one.

Also read: Can COVID-19 Affect Your Blood Pressure? This Study Answers

What Is High Blood Pressure?

High blood pressure is also called hypertension

(Photo Credit: Freepik)

When the pressure of blood on your arteries is consistently high for a long time, you suffer from what is called high blood pressure or hypertension.

Symptoms Of High Blood Pressure Or Hypertension

Most of the time, hypertension isn’t associated with particular symptoms, as per the American Heart Association (AHA). However, severe hypertension can lead to the following symptoms:

  • Facial flushing
  • Blood spots in the eyes
  • Dizziness

Causes Of High Blood Pressure

In 90% of the cases, a person suffers from high blood pressure because of no known cause, as per Dr Kaul. However, in the remaining 10% cases, it can happen due to:

  • Rare tumours
  • Some specific diseases
  • Poor Diet
  • Lifestyle

If left untreated, this condition can have a considerable impact on heart health and increases your risk of heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases.

Also read: Can Zinc Control Rising Blood Pressure Levels? Know What This Study Suggests

What Is Low Blood Pressure?

As per the AHA, there is no specific number at which blood pressure is considered low, given you don’t experience any troubling symptoms.

Symptoms Of Low Blood Pressure

The doctor deems low blood pressure as dangerous if you experience any of the following symptoms:

  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Fainting
  • Nausea
  • Rapid and shallow breathing
  • Unexplained thirst
  • Fatigue 
  • Depression

Causes Of Low Blood Pressure

As per Dr Kaul, a low blood pressure “occurs in critical conditions like allergy, neurological disorders, poor ICU setting, etc.” It can also occur during pregnancy, due to loss of blood, heart problems, certain medication, infection, nutritional deficiencies, etc, as per the AHA. If you experience any of the serious symptoms associated with low blood pressure, consulting your doctor is the first thing you should do.

How To Manage Blood Pressure

Both hypertension and hypotension are common health issues in India. These have serious repercussions on your overall health. Hence, it’s better to prevent any BP-related issues. Here are some of the ways you can manage it:

  • Have a balanced diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
  • Exercise daily
  • Manage healthy weight
  • Manage stress
  • Limit your alcohol consumption
  • Quit smoking

In other words, you need to maintain a healthy lifestyle to ward off BP-related troubles. Equally important is to go for regular health check-ups and if you experience any troubles, work with your doctor to resolve the issue.

(With inputs from Dr Arvind Kaul, Associate Director, Cardiology, Paras Hospitals, Panchkula)

Photo Credit: Freepik