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Here's Why Your Blood Pressure Numbers Matter

Keeping your heart healthy is vital at every age. Each year close to 1 million people in the United States die of stroke, heart disease, and other cardiovascular diseases. Meanwhile heart attack strikes more than 600,000 people each year.

Controlling risk factors such as high blood pressure (hypertension) is an important part of keeping your heart healthy, and Houston board-certified family medicine physician Ranjit Grewal, MD, can help.

Why does blood pressure matter?

Blood pressure measurement consists of two numbers. The top number is your systolic pressure, which is the amount of pressure against the arteries when your heart beats. The blood pressure in between beats is the bottom number, or diastolic pressure.

Both numbers matter. A normal blood pressure is 120/80, and damage to the body occurs when either or both numbers are persistently elevated. Some of your organs' most delicate blood vessels are the most vulnerable to damage.

Delicate blood vessels that supply blood to the kidney and the blood vessels in the eyes are at risk of damage. Your heart and brain are also at risk. Heart attack and stroke are major risk factors of uncontrolled high blood pressure.

It’s crucial to keep track of your numbers through regular checkups, and follow a plan to manage your blood pressure if it’s consistently elevated.

What your BP numbers mean

Here’s more detail about what your blood pressure numbers mean:

120/80

A blood pressure at or near 120/80 means your blood pressure is normal. Your heart and circulatory system isn’t under excess strain, and you aren’t at an increased risk of blood pressure-related health complications.

120-129/80

Sometimes your top number, or diastolic pressure rises a bit, and your bottom number remains at 80 or below. While medication isn’t warranted at this point, Dr. Grewal may recommend keeping an eye on it with regular monitoring.

130-139/80-89

A blood pressure of 130/139/80 is classified as stage 1 hypertension. At this stage, lifestyle changes are often effective in getting your blood pressure down to a safer level. Dr. Grewal will make recommendations depending on your individual medical history and any existing risk factors.

140/90 or higher

Stage 2 hypertension is classified as a blood pressure that consistently measures 140/90 or higher. Stage 2 is often when patients need the support of medication to bring their blood pressure down, though in some cases aggressive diet and lifestyle changes are enough. Dr. Grewal will provide the most appropriate recommendations for your case.

180/120

A blood pressure of 180/120 is dangerous and requires immediate medical attention. At this level you may experience symptoms such as blurry vision, headache, or chest pain.

Reducing health risks

Uncontrolled high blood pressure can have a major impact on your health. In addition to hiking your risk of heart attack and stroke, high blood pressure is the most common cause of kidney failure. 

It can also lead to vision loss, peripheral artery disease (PAD), and sexual dysfunction. The longer high blood pressure is left uncontrolled, the higher the risk of negative health effects. Because high blood pressure rarely causes symptoms outside of a hypertensive crisis, it’s up to you to work closely with a health care provider to assess your risk, and attend regular checkups to monitor your blood pressure.

Over time, high blood pressure can cause major damage to the body. Take steps to protect your heart today with a cardiovascular screening. To get started, contact our office to request a visit with Dr. Grewal.

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