Blood pressure of 120 over 80, what exactly does that mean? Do you know? I’ve never quite understood what those numbers meant so rather than cruise through life pretending I understand, I did a little research.

This is an explanation in simple terms of what I found out about how blood pressure is measured and what the measurement actually means.

Understanding Blood Pressure Measuring

Blood pressure is measured using an instrument called a sphygmomanometer, often coupled with a stethoscope. Here’s a simple explanation of the process and what the measurements mean:

1. How It’s Measured

– Cuff Placement: A cuff is wrapped snugly around your upper arm.

– Inflation: The cuff is inflated with air until circulation in your arm is temporarily cut off.

– Release & Listen: As the air is slowly let out, a healthcare professional listens with a stethoscope.

– First Beat: The first thumping sound heard through the stethoscope indicates the systolic pressure (the higher number).

– Last Beat: The point where the sound stops gives the diastolic pressure (the lower number).

2. What the Measurements Mean

– Systolic Pressure: This is the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats and fills them with blood. The normal range is usually around 90-120 mmHg.

– Diastolic Pressure: This is the pressure in your arteries when your heart rests between beats. The normal range is typically 60-80 mmHg.

The numbers are read as “systolic over diastolic” and measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg).

For example, a blood pressure reading of 120/80 mmHg means a systolic pressure of 120 and a diastolic pressure of 80.

It’s an important measure because it shows how hard your heart is working to pump blood and how healthy your arteries are. High blood pressure can indicate health issues like heart disease, while very low blood pressure might signal an underlying problem as well.

Electronic Blood Pressure Measuring

How does an electronic blood pressure measuring device work? I wanted to know the answer to this as we have a device at home that is electronic.

Electronic blood pressure measuring devices, often known as automatic or digital blood pressure monitors, work using a method similar to the manual ones, but they automate the process and use a different technique to detect blood flow.

This is how they work.

1. Cuff Inflation

Just like with manual devices, an arm cuff is first wrapped around your upper arm. The device then automatically inflates the cuff using a built-in electric pump.

2. Pressure Sensors

Instead of a stethoscope, these devices use pressure sensors to detect the blood flow. They measure oscillations or fluctuations in pressure as the cuff slowly deflates.

3. Systolic and Diastolic Readings

Systolic Pressure – The device calculates the systolic pressure based on the point at which these oscillations begin, representing when the heart beats and pushes blood through the arteries.

Diastolic Pressure – The diastolic pressure is determined at the point where these oscillations become too faint to detect, indicating the resting phase of the heart.

4. Digital Display

The measurements are then displayed on a digital screen in the format of systolic over diastolic pressure (e.g., 120/80 mmHg).

Electronic blood pressure monitors are popular for home use due to their ease of operation. They eliminate the need for you to be skilled in the use of a stethoscope, making them more accessible for non-professionals.

As it turns out, it’s important to use them correctly. Like placing the cuff at heart level to ensure accurate readings. Also, they might need regular calibration to maintain their accuracy over time.

Why Is High Blood Pressure a Problem

High blood pressure, or hypertension as it is known, is a significant health concern because it puts extra strain on your heart and arteries. Over time, this increased pressure can lead to several serious health issues:

1. Heart Disease and Heart Attacks

High blood pressure can cause the arteries to become thicker and less flexible, or even to become narrower. This makes it harder for blood to flow through. If the heart can’t get enough blood, this can lead to a heart attack.

2. Stroke

High blood pressure can lead to weakened blood vessels in the brain, or cause them to narrow, rupture, or leak. It can also form blood clots in the arteries leading to the brain, all of which can result in a stroke.

3. Kidney Disease

The kidneys use blood vessels to filter blood and remove waste. High blood pressure can damage these vessels, affecting the kidneys’ ability to function properly.

4. Eye Problems

The delicate blood vessels in the eyes can be damaged by high blood pressure, potentially leading to vision problems or blindness.

5. Heart Failure

Over time, the increased workload from high blood pressure can cause the heart to enlarge and become less efficient at pumping blood, potentially leading to heart failure.

6. Artery Damage

High blood pressure can lead to arteriosclerosis, where the arteries harden and lose their elasticity, increasing the risk of blockages.

Because high blood pressure often has no symptoms, it’s frequently called the “silent killer.”

Advice given to me is that it is important to have regular blood pressure checks to detect and manage this condition early. Lifestyle changes and medication can be effective in controlling high blood pressure and reducing the risk of these serious complications.

Common Causes of High Blood Pressure

I asked the question – What are the most common documented causes of high blood pressure? This is what I found out.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, can be influenced by a variety of factors. Some of the most common documented causes and risk factors include:

1. Genetics

A family history of high blood pressure increases your risk of developing the condition.

2. Age

The risk of hypertension increases as you get older, as blood vessels naturally become stiffer and narrower over time.

3. Race/Ethnicity

Certain ethnic groups are more prone to high blood pressure, particularly African Americans.

4. Obesity and Overweight

Excess body weight can increase the strain on the heart and raise blood pressure.

5. Lack of Physical Activity

Being inactive can lead to higher heart rates and increased risk of obesity, both of which can raise blood pressure.

6. Dietary Factors

High salt intake, excessive alcohol consumption, and diets high in saturated and trans fats can contribute to high blood pressure.

7. Smoking and Tobacco Use

Smoking and inhaling tobacco can damage blood vessels and heart function, leading to increased blood pressure.

8. Stress

Chronic stress may contribute to hypertension, especially if it leads to unhealthy habits like poor diet or alcohol use.

9. Chronic Conditions

Diseases like diabetes, kidney disease, and sleep apnea are associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure.

10. Certain Medications

Some prescription drugs, over-the-counter medicines, and supplements can raise blood pressure.

It appears that high blood pressure can occur with no identifiable cause, a condition known as essential or primary hypertension. This type of hypertension tends to develop gradually over many years. Lifestyle factors play a crucial role in both the development and management of high blood pressure, emphasising the importance of a healthy lifestyle for prevention and treatment.

That’s it, that’s what I now know.

More Information

This article was written by George Lee Sye. Visit his web site where you’ll discover one of the ‘most effective leadership and business execution programs in the world’ today.

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