What is Blood Pressure, and Why Is it Important to Be in a Normal Range?
September 10, 2019
Normal blood pressure is crucial to maintaining optimal cardiovascular and circulatory health. Blood pressure is responsible for delivering blood throughout the body and returning it to the heart. This happens through a system of blood vessels called veins, arteries, and capillaries.
How Does Blood Pressure Work?
Each time the heart beats, it sends blood to every tissue and organ of the body via arteries. Blood returns to the heart through the veins, when a collaborative effort of the skeletal muscles squeezes the veins and pumps blood back into the heart.
What Are the Functions of Blood Pressure?
The primary function of blood pressure is to move blood around the body through the circulatory system. Our blood is full of oxygen and nutrients that feed the body’s tissues and organs. Blood pressure also transports immune cells, called white blood cells, to areas of the body in need.
In addition to acting as a delivery service, blood pressure also functions as a purifier — when fresh blood is carried away from the heart, it can pick up waste products and toxins from the body’s tissues and organs.
How to Check Blood Pressure and What do Readings Mean
Blood pressure is measured by using an instrument called a sphygmomanometer or a blood pressure monitor. A sphygmomanometer has an inflatable cuff that is placed around the arm.
A blood pressure reading has two numbers: one on top of the other (for example 120/80). The top number is called the systolic pressure reading and is the pressure exerted from the heart when it pumps through the arteries. The bottom number is called the diastolic pressure reading and is the pressure in the arteries when the heart is resting in between beats.
What Happens When Blood Pressure is Too High or Too Low?
For blood pressure to perform its functions properly, it must be within a certain range. Sometimes, blood pressure can be too high or too low. This can place stress on the heart and even the brain.
The American Heart Association defines normal blood pressure levels as systolic less than 120 and diastolic less than 80. Lower blood pressure is typically seen as healthier, but when blood pressure dips too low, one can experience symptoms such as:
-Inability to concentrate
There is no defined range for low blood pressure, but rather blood pressure is said to be too low when these symptoms outlined by the American Heart Association present themselves. When blood pressure is too low, this can deprive your body of much-needed oxygen.
High blood pressure (hypertension) is defined as a systolic read greater than 130 and/or a diastolic reading greater than 80. When blood pressure is too high, it places stress on the arteries and therefore on the circulatory system. Down the road, consistently high blood pressure can lead to heart, brain, and kidney damage.
How to Maintain a Normal Blood Pressure Range
There are many steps you can take to maintaining blood pressure within a normal range, including:
-Eat a well-rounded diet
-Limit consumption of alcohol
-Maintain a healthy weight
-Find healthy ways to manage stress
-In some cases, medications may be necessary
To understand your normal blood pressure range, regularly get your blood pressure checked with your doctor. Regular blood pressure checks allow your doctor to keep a history of blood pressure readings. This makes it easier to identify an upward or a downward trend and possibly prevent any associated health complications.