Blood Pressure Readings: What Those Numbers Mean

Do know how to read your blood pressure and understand it? If not, don’t worry because you are not alone. We know it can be difficult to understand what exactly your blood pressure readings mean. However, we are here to help you learn what your blood pressure readings mean and why regular health screenings are so important.

blood pressure gauge

Understanding what your blood pressure means can be extremely beneficial and help you live a healthier life. By knowing how to read your blood pressure you can identify if you are at risk of high or low blood pressure before it becomes a serious complication. Let’s start by taking a look at what the numbers really mean.

Understanding the Numbers From a Blood Pressure Reading

Whenever you get your blood pressure measured, it is shown with two numbers in the form of a fraction, such as 100/70. However, you may find yourself wondering just what do these numbers mean? The first or top number is the measure of your systolic pressure. The second or bottom number is a measure of your diastolic pressure.

Systolic pressure represents the pressure built up in your arteries while your heart muscles contract. On the other hand, diastolic pressure represents the pressure of your blood while you are between heart beats. When it comes to determining the health of your heart, both systolic and diastolic pressure play a key role.

You want to keep your blood pressure readings within a normal range, but what is a normal range? To be considered within a normal range by the American Heart Association (AHA) your systolic pressure must be between 90 and 120, and your diastolic pressure must be between 60 and 80.

When your blood pressure is within this normal range, you do not require any medical treatment. However this does not mean it will always stay within the normal range. We recommend making appropriate lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise and a lower sodium diet, to ensure you maintain a healthy blood pressure as you get older.

Another important thing to know when it comes to blood pressure readings is how they are measured. The readings are measured as millimeters of mercury. This measurement uses the abbreviation of mm Hg. You can expect any blood pressure readings to displayed in the fashion of 120/80 mm Hg.

If your blood pressure drops below a reading of 90/60 mm Hg, you are considered to have low blood pressure, also known as hypotension. This can be a dangerous thing. When your blood pressure drops to low, your heart and body are not being supplied with adequate oxygenated blood.

On the other hand, if your blood pressure readings are above 120/80 mm Hg, you run the risk of developing high blood pressure. When your blood pressure is extremely high, it is called hypertension. If you have high blood pressure, you are a greater risk of developing heart disease or having a stroke. There are several stages of high blood pressure. If you find you fall into one of these categories, it is time to make some life changes.

Stages of Hypertension

Hypertension or high blood pressure progresses through a couple stages. As your blood pressure progresses through these stages, your risk for heart disease and stroke continues to increase. The stages of hypertension are:

  • Prehypertension
  • Hypertension Stage 1
  • Hypertension Stage 2


If your systolic pressure reaches a reading of 120 to 139 mm Hg or your diastolic pressure reaches a reading of 80 to 89 mm Hg, you are considered to have prehypertension. Although prehypertension does not mean you have high blood pressure yet, it is a warning that you need to start making life changes to improve your heart health.

Prehypertension puts you at a greater risk of developing high blood pressure. You may not need to take medication to help lower your blood pressure, but making the appropriate dietary and exercise changes can help prevent the development of hypertension.

Hypertension Stage 1

You are first considered to have high blood pressure if you are in hypertension stage 1. You fall into the category of hypertension stage 1 if you have a systolic pressure reading of 140 to 159 mm Hg, or a diastolic pressure reading of 90 to 99 mm Hg.

If you have been diagnosed with stage 1 hypertension, it is important to immediately adopt healthy lifestyle choices to start improving your blood pressure. If lifestyle changes are proving to be ineffective, you may need to talk to your doctor about hypertension medication options.

It is also important to continue to track your blood pressure with the help of your doctor, as a single high reading does not necessarily mean you have hypertension. Hypertension will only be diagnosed when your blood pressure readings remain in this high range over a certain extent of time.

Hypertension Stage 2

If your blood pressure reaches a systolic reading of 160 mm Hg or more, or a diastolic reading of 100 mm Hg or more, you have reached hypertension stage 2. This is a very dangerous condition in which your risk of heart disease and stroke are greatly increased.

As with any stage of hypertension, one reading in this high of a range does not mean you have stage 2 hypertension, but if you blood pressure stays in this range it is cause for serious concern. Again it is very important to start making heart healthy habits an immediate priority at this stage. However, your doctor will most likely prescribe blood pressure medication to help improve your readings during this stage.

Are you thinking about taking medication to help improve your blood pressure? Here is a list of medications commonly used to treat or manage high blood pressure. Be sure to talk with your doctor to find the medication that is best for you.

Hypertensive Crisis

heart rate with hear in background

A hypertensive crisis occurs when your blood pressure reaches a level of 180/110 mm Hg or above. It is possible to have a reading this high and return to normal quickly, but this is still a cause for serious concern. If you get a blood pressure reading this high, you should seek immediate medical attention. Emergency treatment may be necessary if you are also experiencing any of the following symptoms:

  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Blurry vision
  • Stroke like symptoms
  • Bloody urine

How Can You Prevent High Blood Pressure?

No matter what your blood pressure is, it is always a good idea to start adopting heart healthy habits. Avoiding or lowering high blood pressure begins with making the appropriate lifestyle and dietary changes to improve your heart’s health. Some things you can do to help improve your blood pressure are:

  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day
  • Reduce your sodium intake
  • Drink less alcohol
  • Lower the amount of caffeine you consume
  • Avoid processed foods
  • Try and maintain a healthy weight
  • Stop smoking
  • Take measures to manage your stress

Hypertension Health Screenings in Birmingham

At Achieve Clinical Research, we are striving to improve what is known about how to treat and manage high blood pressure through hypertension clinical research. We understand the importance of regular health screenings for blood pressure and would recommend that you get your blood pressure checked at least once every 5 years.

For the months of September and October, Achieve will be offering free blood pressure screenings at our clinic in Birmingham, Alabama. Screenings will be open to anyone, but available appointments are limited. Click here for more information about our free health screenings, or give us a call at (205) 757-8208.

We hope this post has helped you learn the importance of knowing and understanding your blood pressure reading. Please come and visit us at our clinic to get your free blood pressure screening today!



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