What Is a Good Blood Pressure Reading and How to Check It at Home
What is a normal blood pressure reading?
- Normal Reading: According to the American Heart Association, a reading less than 120/80 is considered normal.
- Prehypertension: Prehypertension is any reading between 121/81 through 139/89.
What is Blood Pressure Video
What is Systolic Pressure?
Systolic pressure is the top number.
The systolic pressure reading is the larger number you traditionally see on top when seeing a blood pressure reading such as, 120/80. The 120 would represent the systolic pressure. This number represents the point when your heart beats (contracts). This is the point when the heart pumps the blood out of the heart and sends it to the whole body.
What is Diastolic Pressure?
Diastolic pressure is the bottom number.
The diastolic pressure reading is the lower number you traditionally see on the bottom of a blood pressure reading. If we use 120/80 as an example, the 80 would represent the diastolic pressure. This number represents the point when your heart relaxes and subsequently takes in the returning blood from the body.
Blood Pressure Ranges - Based on recommendations by the American Heart Association
121 - 139
81 - 89
High Blood Pressure: Stage 1
140 - 159
90 - 99
High Blood Pressure: Stage 2
160 or above
100 or above
Emergency care needed
180 or above
110 or above
Investing in a blood pressure machine for your home
If you or family members face high blood pressure, or other heart issues, it would be a wise choice to invest in a home blood pressure machine. They are fairly economical and will help you monitor your blood pressure from the convenience of your home on a regular basis.
Personally, I keep mine on my nightstand and I check my blood pressure at least three times a week. I try to check it at the same time of day and with the same arm. Your blood pressure readings will and can vary at different times of the day. If you were going to log your blood pressure readings I would recommend writing down the time of day and repeating that schedule on a regular basis.
Suggestion: Avoid investing in a wrist monitor. A variety of organizations state a wrist monitor is not as accurate as an arm cuff monitor.
How to use a blood pressure machine at home.
Most pharmacies and general drugstores have blood pressure machines available for home use. They are not very expensive and would be a wise investment for anyone diagnosed with prehypertension or true hypertension. Most range between $30 to $70 US dollars. The machines usually include a memory button for backtracking as well as a pulse monitor for evaluating your heart rate. Some machines will even alert you to any unusual heart rhythms, or palpitations.
Using a machine at home is easy and only takes about one minute to use. Take a look at the photo tutorial below for examples of how to properly use a blood pressure machine at home.
The diagram above is featured on the inside of my personal blood pressure cuff. It is a wonderful reminder of how the cuff should be placed on the arm.
It is very important for the cuff to be placed properly. Readings will not be accurate if you are not using the cuff correctly with each reading.
- Place the cuff around your lower bicep.
- Lightly wrap the cuff and secure the edge of the cuff to the Velcro. (Do not make the cuff too tight. You should be able to easily insert a finger in between your arm and your cuff)
- The edge of the cuff should end about 1/2 an inch above the crease of your arm.
- Be sure the reading tube is centered with a direct imaginary line to your wrist.
Once you have properly aligned and secured your cuff you can take your reading.
- Remain still.
- Do not strain, talk or laugh.
- Coughing or sneezing during a blood pressure reading will inhibit an accurate result. Wait a couple of minutes and try again.
Machines and instructions may vary. I've noticed that some public blood pressure machines in drugstores direct you to keep the palm up, while others state to leave the palm down. My machine instructs me to keep my wrist relaxed and facing up. Be sure to follow the specific instructions for your respective machine.
- Try not to switch arms when recording readings. If you do, it is best to document that you have done so. Different arms can result in different readings. You will want to remain consistent when supplying blood pressure data to your personal physician.
- Do not take blood pressure readings within 30 minutes of drinking coffee, alcohol or smoking.
- Doing exercise before a blood pressure reading may give you a higher reading than what your normal pressure really is.
- The American Heart Association recommends sitting quietly with your feet flat on the floor for at least five minutes before taking a reading.
Risk Factors that may cause High Blood Pressure
- Being overweight
- High Cholesterol
- Sedentary Lifestyle
- Bad Diet (excessive caffeine, alcohol, salt and fats)
- Genetics and Family History
I invested in my own machine when I was diagnosed with prehypertension. The readings above are clear that I need to remain vigilant.
Let's review the terminology:
- Systolic pressure is the top number in a blood pressure reading. This represents when the heart beats and pumps the blood to the body.
- Diastolic pressure is the number that appears below the systolic pressure. This reading represents the moment the heart relaxes and blood is filling the heart chamber.
- Pulse is the reading of your heart rate, or heart beats per minute.
Understanding Blood Pressure Anatomy Video
Do you remember what you learned?
Take the quiz below and see if you understand the different blood pressure readings and terminology. The quiz will cover the following information presented in this Hub:
- Blood pressure readings.
- Range of normal to emergency blood pressure readings.
- Blood pressure terminology.
A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods and with reduced saturated and total fat can substantially lower blood pressure.— The New England Journal of Medicine
Blood Pressure Quiz:view quiz statistics
Disclaimer: Information in this article is research based. The author is not a physician and does not diagnose or treat health issues. The information provided here should not be construed as personal medical advice or instruction. Please consult a physician for medical and dietary advice and treatment. Blood pressure should not be treated without the supervision of a medical professional.
© 2012 Marisa Hammond Olivares