Jan 31, 2018 Understanding the New Blood Pressure Guidelines

The American Heart Association recently released new guidelines surrounding blood pressure - a condition that typically has no symptoms, but is the second leading cause of preventable death in the United States, behind cigarette smoking. The heart care specialists at RWJBarnabas Health encourage you to partner with your physician to know your blood pressure numbers and proactively address any concerns surrounding your readings.

What is blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the force of your blood pushing against your artery walls. The force is generated with each heartbeat as blood is pumped from the heart into the blood vessels. Each time your heart beats (contracts and relaxes), pressure is created inside the arteries. The pressure is greatest when blood is pumped out of the heart into the arteries or systole. When the heart relaxes between beats (blood is not moving out of the heart), the pressure falls in the arteries or diastole.

Two numbers are recorded when measuring blood pressure. The top number, or systolic pressure, refers to the pressure inside the artery when the heart contracts and pumps blood through the body. The bottom number, or diastolic pressure, refers to the pressure inside the artery when the heart is at rest and is filling with blood.

How does high blood pressure impact the risk for cardiovascular disease?

High blood pressure, or hypertension, directly increases the risk of coronary heart disease (heart attack) and stroke (brain attack). With high blood pressure, the arteries may have an increased resistance against the flow of blood, causing the heart to pump harder to circulate the blood. You can know if your blood pressure is high by having it checked regularly by your health care provider.

Get an accurate reading

To get an accurate blood pressure reading, your health care provider should take your reading when you are at rest and in a sitting position. It should be checked three times during the encounter to ensure you are receiving a proper reading.