Before we throw facts and figures around, it’s important to note that the ideal blood pressure varies from person to person, depending on lifestyle, medical history and genetic traits. So no panic! First, let’s look at what a number like 120 over 80 actually means.
Those Mysterious Numbers
For your first blood pressure reading, it’s always best to put yourself in the hands of a trained professional. A doctor or nurse can tell you whether you have a healthy blood pressure reading and what your next step should be if you haven’t. To have your blood pressure measured, a cuff is placed around your upper arm and inflated until it exerts a slight force against the muscle of your biceps. A gauge can then measure the pressure of blood in your arm to see if it is optimum. However, when you are presented with what sounds like a top heavy fraction it can feel a little overwhelming.
The top (and largest) number is called the ‘Systolic’ and the bottom number is the ‘Diastolic’. Systolic pressure is the blood pressure at the moment that your heart beats, while the diastolic is the pressure between the heart beats. The Blood Pressure Association suggests that the ideal blood pressure range is between 120 to 90 for the systolic and 80 to 60 for the diastolic. Anything beneath that is classified as lower than normal and anything above that but lower than 140 over 90 is a reading that is higher than normal.
If you have a reading that is not in the perfect range, it’s not the end of the world! Not being ‘Ideal’ does not mean that you aren’t healthy.
Why Don’t I Have The Perfect Pressure?
Blood pressure is the amount of pressure the blood in your body exerts on the walls of the blood vessels that carry it and can be used as a measure of a person’s general health. However, it changes throughout the day, so to take a good measurement of blood pressure yourself, it’s important to use averages.
Readings taken by a doctor might be higher than your normal blood pressure because it can be a stressful environment, which is why many doctors suggest home blood pressure monitors. If you’ve taken your own reading and it’s particularly high, wait a couple of hours and try again in case you were particularly nervous or stressed during the first reading. Your ongoing blood pressure can be affected by tension, exercise and substances such as stimulants (coffee) and nicotine.
Don’t forget that your medical history and your family’s medical history are a good indication for what your personal naturally optimum blood pressure should be. If for example your mother’s average blood pressure has always been lower than average, it’s likely that yours will be the same. Scientists at the University of Michigan have proven that genetics affect a person’s average blood pressure as much as their lifestyle, so your ‘ideal blood pressure’ may be specific to you!