You can’t watch TV without seeing an ad for blood pressure medication, and it seems that everywhere you turn, there’s a blood pressure cuff for use. What’s the big deal about blood pressure?
We’re glad you asked. Dr. James Lee and our team at Woodstock Family Practice & Urgent Care are passionate about blood pressure and want all our patients throughout Woodstock, Georgia, to understand why their BP numbers are so important.
Since May is High Blood Pressure Education Month, we’re taking this opportunity to spread the word about blood pressure numbers and why you should care.
What is blood pressure?
Before diving into the dangers of high blood pressure, also called hypertension, let’s look at what blood pressure is.
Picture your body as a bustling city, where oxygenated blood is the vital fuel every citizen (your organs and tissues) requires to survive and thrive. Your circulatory system is like a sprawling network of highways, conveying this life-giving fuel to every area of your metropolis.
Enter the heartbeat, the powerhouse driving this entire process. Every pulse from your heart creates pressure that propels blood across this complex transportation network made up of arteries, veins, and capillaries.
This pressure, also known as your blood pressure, stems from two dynamic forces working in harmony.
Think of systolic pressure as the "rush hour" of the circulatory system. Blood energetically pumps out of your heart, hurtling through the arterial highways toward its final destinations.
Diastolic pressure, on the other hand, is like the quiet lull when traffic dies down — a peaceful moment when your heart takes a brief respite between beats.
These two contrasting forces form a dynamic duo and are conveniently denoted by numbers in a blood pressure reading.
What your BP numbers mean
When Dr. Lee or one of our team members takes your blood pressure, we get two numbers that indicate your systolic and diastolic pressure. The reading looks like 120/80 (for example) and is read aloud like “120 over 80.” Here’s what your numbers mean.
At or near 120/80
You're in the normal zone if your blood pressure stays under 120/80 mm Hg. Keep rocking those heart-friendly habits like eating well and exercising regularly.
If your blood pressure decides to do a little dance and hover between 120-129 systolic but stays below 80 diastolic, that's called "elevated." It signals that you should take steps to keep high blood pressure from crashing your health.
We call this hypertension stage 1, meaning you need to make some drastic lifestyle changes immediately. Dr. Lee may also recommend blood pressure medication to lower your risk of heart disease.
140/90 or higher
When your BP climbs to this level, you’re in hypertension stage 2 and likely need medication and lifestyle changes to control it.
A hypertensive crisis is when your blood pressure spikes to 180/120 or higher, and you should consider it a medical emergency. You may also experience symptoms like shortness of breath, chest pain, vision problems, back pain, weakness, and numbness.
Why your BP numbers matter
High blood pressure damages your body and can lead to fatal conditions if you don’t control it. Unfortunately, it rarely comes with symptoms that warn you that it’s creeping up. That’s how it earned the nickname “silent killer.”
That’s also why Dr. Lee insists on monitoring every patient’s blood pressure at every visit. If high blood pressure goes undetected, it can lead to:
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- Vision loss
- Kidney disease
- Sexual dysfunction
- Peripheral artery disease
Over time, high blood pressure destroys your blood vessels, allowing cholesterol to build up on the inner walls. This causes gridlock in your “transportation network” and brings things to a screeching halt.
Knowledge is power
Fortunately, you can prevent high blood pressure and lower it. The first step is knowing your numbers, so come in for a quick check any time or purchase an at-home monitor to keep tabs on your own.
Second, change your eating and exercise habits. What you consume directly impacts your blood pressure, and moving more can lower your numbers.
Finally, schedule an appointment with Dr. Lee to discuss your blood pressure and the factors in your health history that may put you at risk for unhealthy blood pressure. Contact us online or by phone — we’re here for you.