Beyond the numbers we’re told at the doctor’s office, many of us don’t know much about blood pressure. Say your doctor tells you your blood pressure is 146/85 mm Hg. Do you know what those numbers actually mean for you? Test your blood pressure IQ to find out.

Your doctor tells you your blood pressure is 146/85 mm Hg. What do those two numbers mean?

These two numbers reflect your systolic and diastolic blood pressure measured in mm Hg. Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury, Hg being the periodic symbol of mercury. The first accurate pressure gauges used Mercury, and the unit is still used today.

The first number, your systolic pressure, is the pressure on the artery walls when your heart beats. The second, smaller number is your diastolic pressure, which measures the pressure on the artery wall between the beats.

What does hypertension mean?

Hypertension is just the technical, medical term for high blood pressure.

What are high blood pressure numbers?

Readings between 130 and 139 mm Hg for systolic, or the diastolic numbers between 80 and 89 mm Hg, indicate stage 1 hypertension. Above that is stage 2 hypertension. If your systolic pressure reads over 180 mm Hg, or the diastolic number is over 120 mm Hg, you are experiencing a hypertensive crisis. If you have a reading this high, seek medical help immediately!

Why is hypertension bad?

The higher the pressure of blood in your veins, the harder your heart has to work to push the blood through your body. High blood pressure also causes your arteries to harden and increases your risk of stroke, kidney disease, and heart failure.

What are the symptoms of high blood pressure?

High blood pressure is called the “silent killer” because, most of the time, there are no symptoms. While some people with extreme hypertension can experience headaches, shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain, and other symptoms, it is important to be aware of your blood pressure well before that. The best way to do this is by having it checked by your primary care provider at your regular visits.

How common is high blood pressure?

One in every 3 Americans has high blood pressure. That’s 68 million people. Even worse, 1 in 5 people who have it don’t know it.

If you have any questions about blood pressure or hypertension, ask your Health Advisor. We’re here to help!