Know your numbers!

That’s what the American Heart Association wants you to do.

Why do we measure blood pressure? It’s a tool doctors use to help identify if a person is at risk for heart disease or stroke. Keep in mind, it’s not the only tool, and it doesn’t necessarily indicate that a person will or won’t have heart disease, but it does help doctors in the management of their patients’ care. Doctors are primarily checking for hypertension, hypotension, or other heart conditions.

What do the numbers mean? You’ve heard it before, “your blood pressure is (number) over (number).” The first number is your systolic number, and the second number is your diastolic number.

The systolic number refers to the amount of pressure in your arteries when your heart is in contraction… basically, the pressure when your heart is working.

The diastolic number is the the amount of pressure when your heart is between beats… the pressure when your heart is resting.

There are four blood pressure categories, depending on where the measurements land. Here they are:

Normal Blood Pressure: Systolic below 120 / diastolic below 80
Prehypertension: Systolic 120 to 139 / diastolic 80 to 89
Stage 1 Hypertension: Systolic 140 to 159 / diastolic 90 to 99
Stage 2 Hypertension: Systolic 160+ / diastolic 100+ 

If your blood pressure is normal, maintain a healthy lifestyle and take care of yourself, and you can prevent or delay the onset of high blood pressure or other health problems.

If you find yourself in a higher category, talk to your doctor about certain goals in order to get your numbers down and reduce risk of heart disease. You don’t want your heart overworking itself to keep your blood pumping!