UPDATE: This article was updated with new and relevant medical information on July 15, 2019.
According to the American Heart Association, nearly half of all adults in America have high blood pressure, or hypertension. However, since high blood pressure can often be present without any symptoms at all, many people who have it don’t know it. High blood pressure can cause a host of medical problems, especially over time, including cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, and stroke. Once you visit the doctor and get a sense of your numbers, you can use a blood pressure chart to interpret your results and stay on top of your progress.
The United States Preventive Services Task Force recommends that adults over the age of 18 be screened for high blood pressure. If the reading is normal, people ages 18 to 39 can be rechecked every three to five years. After age 40, blood pressure should be checked annually, which will likely happen every time you go to the doctor. You can also have your blood pressure checked at a pharmacy or at home with a personal blood pressure machine.
Many things can impact your blood pressure, such as time of day, how hydrated you are, and even whether or not you are around somebody wearing a white coat. Because of this, physicians typically check blood pressure at least three times before officially diagnosing you with blood pressure, and they may ask for your blood pressure readings to be done out of the office, so you’re less stressed.
The top number of your blood pressure is the systolic pressure, which indicates the pressure in the arteries when the heart is squeezing. The bottom number of your blood pressure is the diastolic pressure, which indicates the pressure in the arteries when the heart is relaxed. A systolic reading above 120 and/or a diastolic reading over 80 is considered elevated and warrants seeing your doctor, being evaluated for causes of hypertension, lifestyle modifications, and possible medication.
Once you've obtained a blood pressure reading (or several, which you can average together), use the chart below to analyze your results.
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