Blood pressure is an important indicator of overall health, yet many people do not fully understand what their blood pressure readings actually mean. By breaking down the numbers and understanding what they signify, individuals can take proactive steps to maintain or improve their cardiovascular health.

Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) and consists of two numbers: systolic pressure and diastolic pressure. Systolic pressure is the top number and represents the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats. Diastolic pressure is the bottom number and indicates the pressure in the arteries when the heart is resting between beats. Normal blood pressure is typically considered to be around 120/80 mm Hg.

Elevated blood pressure, or prehypertension, is defined as systolic pressure between 120-129 mm Hg and diastolic pressure below 80 mm Hg. Stage 1 hypertension is classified as systolic pressure between 130-139 mm Hg or diastolic pressure between 80-89 mm Hg. Stage 2 hypertension is characterized by systolic pressure of 140 mm Hg or higher and diastolic pressure of 90 mm Hg or higher.

High blood pressure, especially when left untreated, can lead to serious health complications such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and vision loss. That’s why it’s important to monitor blood pressure regularly and make lifestyle changes to manage it effectively.

If your blood pressure readings are consistently high, there are several steps you can take to lower it. These may include following a heart-healthy diet low in sodium and saturated fats, maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in regular physical activity, limiting alcohol consumption, quitting smoking, managing stress, and taking prescribed medications if needed.

It is also important to note that blood pressure can fluctuate throughout the day due to factors such as stress, physical activity, and medication. To get an accurate reading, it is recommended to measure blood pressure at the same time each day, in a quiet and relaxed environment, while seated with feet flat on the floor.

Ultimately, understanding your blood pressure readings and taking proactive steps to manage them can significantly reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. By staying informed and making healthy lifestyle choices, you can maintain optimal blood pressure levels and lead a longer, healthier life.

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