How to Read a Blood Pressure Monitor for Better Health

September 29th is World Heart Day. It’s time to take a look at our hearts!

Over 100 million Americans are living with high blood pressure. It might not sound like much, but nearly 80,000 people die from hypertension yearly. That means watching your high blood pressure is the most important part of your cardiovascular health. 

With these numbers on the rise in the last 15 years, if you are at risk of high blood pressure or hypertension, now is the time to bring a monitor home, and understand how to use it.

Tips Before you Begin:

  • Begin by sitting up straight
  • Your arm should be flexed, elbow below your heart, feet flat on the ground
  • The cuff should sit just above the elbow for an accurate fit
  • Take your blood pressure at the same time every day
  • Wait after smoking, drinking caffeine, or exercising

Now that you’re ready to get an accurate reading with your blood pressure monitor, the next step is how to interpret those results!

Getting to Know Your Monitor

Systolic Number

This is the number on the upper part of the monitor’s screen. It measures the amount of pressure forced on your arteries when your heart beats.

Diastolic Number

This is the lower number on the screen. This number measures the amount of pressure in your arteries between heartbeats when your arteries are filling with blood.

What Your Blood Pressure Monitor is Telling you

You know what each number measures, so it’s time to understand what’s normal and when it’s time to call your doctor.

Normal Reading

If the top number on the monitor reads below 120, and the bottom number reads below 80 this is completely normal. However, a systolic reading of below 90 is cause for concern, so talk to you doctor if your top number is below 90.

Elevated Reading

If your top number reads somewhere between 120 and 129, but your bottom number still reads below 80, don’t worry. There’s a number of factors for a slightly elevated reading, from just completing exercise, anxiety, or just taking your pressure all wrong. Give yourself 5 minutes, and relax. Make sure you sitting up straight with your legs uncrossed and your elbow below your heart.

If it’s still elevated, talk to you doctor about the best ways to get it back down. Changing your diet, quitting smoking, and more exercise can all help reduce your systolic number.

Hypertension Stage 1

If you’re top number reads between 130 and 139, or your bottom number reads between 80 and 89, you should talk to you doctor. This is considered Hypertension Stage 1. Checking your pressure regularly ensures you don’t go too long in a hypertensive state. If you catch it early enough, your doctor will be able to guide your pressure back to a normal reading through diet, exercise, and other prescribed life changes.

Hypertension Stage 2

A systolic number of over 140, or a diastolic number of over 90 is Hypertension Stage 2. You should be speaking to your doctor to find the best healthcare plan to lower your pressure. This is a range that is very high and cause for concern, as it can lead to lasting cardiovascular damage, heart attack, and stroke.

Create a plan with your doctor about how to bring these numbers back to the normal range.

Hypertensive Crisis

If you’re reading over 180 on the top and/or over 120 on the bottom, this is considered Hypertensive Crisis by the American Heart Association. Many people in Hypertensive Crisis can experience stroke, heart attack, and even death. Regularly checking your blood pressure and speaking with your doctor can help avoid getting to this level of crisis.

Your blood pressure can tell you a lot about your overall health, so adding regular testing to your healthcare routine is important. But it might not be tell you a lot if you can’t understand the readings. Know the signs of high blood pressure and you’ll live a longer, healthier life.

Find all the supplies you need to keep an eye on your blood pressure readings here. Remember that World Heart Day is September 29th!