Blood Pressure Truths

Everyone has blood pressure.  The doctor or nurse measures it each time you have a physical.  Quickly they rattle off numbers and tell you that your blood pressure is good or bad.  But what is it and what does it mean?  

What is Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure is the pressure exerted by the blood against the walls of the arteries and veins in your body. It varies with the strength of the heartbeat, the elasticity of the arterial walls, the volume and viscosity of the blood, and a person’s health, age, and physical condition.  According to the American Heart Association, normal blood pressure for adults (ages 20 and older) is less than 120/80 mm Hg.  On the other hand, hypertension is defined as having a systolic pressure of 130 mm Hg or higher, or a diastolic pressure of 80 mm Hg or higher, most of the time. 

What are Readings?

Blood pressure readings are composed of two numbers—for example, 120/80 mm Hg. Both numbers are an important part of your blood pressure reading. The standard unit of measure, mm Hg, stands for “millimeters of mercury.” Mercury pressure gauges have been replaced with electronic pressure gauges, but the abbreviation is still used. 

The top number (systolic pressure) measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats. The bottom number (diastolic pressure) measures the pressure in your arteries between each heartbeat. A blood pressure chart can help you interpret your results to see how they compare to the normal ranges. 

Does It Matter What Your Blood Pressure Reads?

High blood pressure can make your heart work too hard and lose strength. The high force of blood flow can damage your blood vessels, making them weak, stiff, or narrower. Over time, hypertension can harm several important organs, including your heart, kidneys, brain, and eyes.

Blood pressure monitoring is an important part of maintaining your health.  It’s important to have your blood pressure checked at least every two years starting at age 18. Some people need more-frequent checks.

Hypertension/High Blood Pressure

If you have hypertension or high blood pressure, recognize that, untreated, high blood pressure increases the risk of heart attack, stroke and other serious health problems. This can mean hardening and thickening of the arteries. 

Silent Killer

A heart attack is called “silent” because it has no symptoms, mild symptoms or symptoms people don’t connect to a heart attack. Also known as a myocardial infarction, a heart attack means your heart isn’t getting oxygen. This injures your heart. Usually, a blood clot causes a heart attack by keeping blood from flowing through one of your coronary arteries. Less often, a coronary artery spasm can cut off your blood flow. 

Heart attacks can happen when you’re asleep or awake. They can happen when: 

  • You just went through something very physically or emotionally stressful. 
  • You quickly become more physically active. 
  • You’re physically active outside in the cold. 

Healthy Lifestyle Habits

Taking aspirin may prevent a heart attack but be sure to check with your provider before you start taking it. Other things you can do to help prevent a heart attack include:

  • Exercise.
  • Stop use of tobacco products.
  • Eat healthy foods.
  • Keep your stress well managed.
  • Stay at a healthy weight.

Some people need medicine to treat high blood pressure.

Work With Dr. Leo

Working with a doctor like Dr. Leo can be very beneficial if you have concerns about you or your family’s history of blood pressure issues.  Dr. Leo has worked with many patients in this arena.  Give us a call to schedule your first appointment and feel good.  We are located at 6321 Executive Blvd, Rockville, MD 20852, in the Executive office park.

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Picture of Dr. L. J. Leo

Dr. L. J. Leo

Dr. Leo began his education at the Virginia College of Osteopathic Medicine in Blacksburg, Virginia, where he earned his doctorate in osteopathy. He completed his internal medicine residency through the U.S. Army and had the honor of serving multiple overseas tours before retirement.

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