Many times after seeing my blood pressure measurement, I wondered which blood pressure number is more important. If you’ve wondered the same thing, especially if one number was higher than it should, you’ll want to understand which number is more important. This way you don’t make the same mistake that others are making that can affect your health.
Which blood pressure number is more important? Research shows that both blood pressure numbers are equally important in monitoring heart health and for diagnosing high blood pressure. However, for people over 50 more attention is focused to the higher number, systolic blood pressure, as a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease.
Even though both blood pressure numbers are equally important there are situations when a doctor will focus on the higher number and there are times when the lower number becomes more of the focus (resource). This article will explain those situations to you and why they’re extremely important to your health and your risk of death.
When The Higher Blood Pressure Number Is Important
If you have a higher than normal systolic blood pressure number (the upper number) combined with a lower diastolic number (the lower number) you have a common type of high blood pressure that doctors refer to as isolated systolic hypertension (resource). It’s the most common form of high blood pressure in people older than age 65, but it’s possible for younger people to have it also.
Isolated Systolic Hypertension Can Cause The Following Serious Health Issues:
- Heart disease
- Chronic kidney disease
In people ages 50 and over, most studies show a greater risk of stroke and heart disease related to the higher number compared with an elevated lower number. This is why doctors tend to monitor the top number more closely. This is so because the higher number rises steadily with age due to the following:
- Increasing stiffness of large arteries
- Long-term buildup of plaque
- An increased incidence of cardiac and vascular disease
For people of all ages, a higher upper blood pressure number can also be caused by an overactive thyroid or diabetes.
According to recent studies, for people aged from 40 to 89, for every 20 mm Hg increase in systolic blood pressure (upper number) the risk of death from ischemic heart disease and stroke doubles (resource). Ischemic heart disease, also called coronary heart disease, is caused when the narrowed arteries in the heart receive less blood and oxygen which can lead to a heart attack.
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When The Lower Blood Pressure Number Is Important
Not paying attention to the diastolic reading (lower blood pressure number) is a dreadful mistake and thankfully in recent years more importance is given to the lower number than before. Your coronary arteries which surround the aortic valve in your heart only get blood when the aortic valve closes and this happens in diastole.
If your diastolic number is elevated or high and your systolic number is normal, it means you are at a higher than average risk of developing elevated systolic blood pressure as you age.
According to recent studies, for people aged from 40 to 89, the risk of death from ischemic heart disease and stroke doubles with every 10 mm Hg increase in diastolic blood pressure (resource). On the other hand, if your diastolic blood pressure number is too low, meaning that your coronary arteries aren’t getting enough blood pressure, your heart is going to lack oxygen and blood. This is called ischemia and may weaken your heart over time which can lead to heart failure.
When The Higher And Lower Blood Pressure Numbers Are Considered To Be High Blood Pressure
1st, let’s define high blood pressure, aka Hypertension. High blood pressure is when your blood pressure, which is the force of your blood pushing against your blood vessel walls, is consistently too high. Nearly half of American adults have High Blood Pressure and it’s frequently called the “silent killer” because you usually don’t recognize you have it. There are typically no symptoms or signs but it can cause major health issues for you.
How to know when you blood pressure numbers are considered high blood pressure (resource):
High Blood Pressure Stage 1 has a systolic number from 130-139 mm Hg OR a diastolic number from 80-90 mm Hg. In this range doctors are likely to suggest lifestyle changes and may consider medication based on your risk of cardiovascular disease.
High Blood Pressure Stage 2 has a systolic number 140 mm Hg or higher OR a diastolic number 90 mm Hg or higher. If your readings are consistently in this range, doctors are likely to prescribe a combination of medications and lifestyle changes.
Ways To Lower Your Blood Pressure Number
Medication Used To Lower Blood Pressure: (resource)
- Water pills or diuretics: They help your kidneys flush water and sodium from your body.
- Beta-blockers: They make your heart beats slower and less forcefully.
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
- Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs)
- Calcium channel blockers: To relax your blood vessels.
- Renin inhibitors: To keep your kidneys from making a chemical that can lead to higher blood pressure.
Ways To Lower Blood Pressure Naturally:
- Pressure Points: These points, such as the 3rd eye point, can help you relax which can help lower your blood pressure
- Breathing Exercises: One of the most popular is deep breathing. These simples, easy to do exercises can help lower your blood pressure instantly.
- Self-Massage: In just a few minutes you can help lower your blood pressure anywhere with a simple face massage starting between your eyebrows, over your eyebrows around to your temples.
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Lifestyle Changes To Lower Blood Pressure: (resource)
- Unhealthy Diet: Good nutrition from a variety of sources is critical for your health. A diet too high in calories, saturated and trans fat and sugar have an increased risk of high blood pressure. Making healthy food choices can actually help lower blood pressure.
- Lack of physical activity: Not getting enough physical activity increases your risk of getting high blood pressure. Physical activity is great for your heart and circulatory system in general and blood pressure is no exception. Aim to get about 20-30 minutes a day.
- Being Overweight or Obese: Excess weight puts an extra strain on your heart and circulatory system that can cause serious health problems. It also increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and high blood pressure.
- Excess Alcohol: Frequent, excessive use of alcohol can cause many health problems including heart failure, stroke and an irregular heartbeat. It can cause your blood pressure to increase dramatically and can also increase your risk of cancer, obesity, suicide and accidents.
What is the difference between systolic and diastolic blood pressure? The higher number is your Systolic Blood Pressure. This indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls when the heart beats. The lower number is your Diastolic Blood Pressure. This indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls while the heart is resting between beats.
When to call 911 for high blood pressure? If you measure your blood pressure and either number is higher than 180/120, wait about 5 minutes and take it again. If the 2nd reading is just as high and you are experiencing any of the following call 911:
- Chest pain
- Shortness Of Breath
- Back pain
- Numbness or Weakness
- Change In Vision
- Difficulty Breathing
Monitor Your Blood Pressure Numbers
Since you’re now aware which blood pressure number is more important, the more you understand both of your blood pressure numbers the better. If one number is higher — whether it’s the top or the bottom — contact your doctor and find out what you can do to lower your blood pressure. High blood pressure can lead to stroke or heart disease, so by monitoring your blood pressure and taking it seriously can safe your life.
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