Systolic Vs Diastolic Blood Pressure: What The Numbers Really Mean


According to escardio, one in five young adults in India now lives with high blood pressure. 

While it was earlier a condition that affected the older demographic, the shift in lifestyle has made high blood pressure a common problem, even among young adults. If you’ve ever had your blood pressure measured, you’d have encountered two numbers – your systolic and diastolic blood pressure. But what do these numbers really mean?

To understand this, here’s a quick primer on how your heart works.

What is high blood pressure or hypertension?

When you imagine the body as the machine that it is, and blood to be the fuel that keeps it running, blood pressure can be considered the force with which the fuel pumps through our body. And the heart is the engine that pumps this blood throughout the body. 

But what happens when the pipes, or blood vessels in our cases, starts to stiffen and narrow? 

The heart has to exert more effort to push the blood throughout the body so that it can continue to perform its functions effectively. This is exactly what happens when a person experiences hypertension. Owing to factors like increased salt consumption, high cholesterol food, or even smoking, the blood vessels are narrowed, making it harder for the heart to pump blood throughout the body. 

What exactly is systolic and diastolic blood pressure? 

Every time the heartbeats, it is working with all it’s might to push blood out through the body and get it to the places it needs to go. But between beats, the heart takes a moment to relax and prepares again to push hard. Whenever we hear our heartbeat, it is indicative of this constant motion that our heart is doing.

When the heart exerts force, the blood pressure goes up and this is referred to as systolic pressure. When the heart pauses between the beats, the blood pressure in the arteries are at their lowest, and this is called diastolic blood pressure.

In a healthy adult, the expected blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg or lower. Anywhere between 90/60 mm Hg to 120/80mm Hg is considered as a normal blood pressure reading. But if it goes higher than 140/90mmHg, the patient is considered to be at risk of having hypertension. 

The stage of hypertension that a patient is in, is characterized by these numbers. 

While anything about 120/80mm Hg is considered as elevated blood pressure, anybody whose blood pressure ranges between 140-159 systolic pressure and 90-99 diastolic pressure is considered to be in stage one of hypertension. If the numbers further increase to be 160/100mmHg or above, they are in stage 2 hypertension and will require an effective treatment plan in place, to avoid serious complications. 


Analyzing your blood pressure readings

We’re sure the last time you saw a BP monitor was at your doctor’s office – a device with a cuff, a pressure control bulb and a pressure gauge. While these trusted devices continue to exist in some hospitals and doctor’s officers, they’ve been replaced by modern blood pressure monitors.  

The digital variant has fewer chances of error and is easy to operate without any help. It is also easily available at pharmacies or on shopping websites. As the number of hypertension cases increases, it is important that more people have their own blood pressure monitor and track their vitals regularly. Consistent self-monitoring can go a long way in helping to manage any chronic condition. 

When using your blood pressure monitor, there are some things to keep in mind. This will help you get accurate readings, with a lesser chance of manual error.

Make sure you: 

  • sit in a comfortable position
  • place your left arm at the level of the heart on a table or desk 
  • not move around too much while taking the reading
  • wrap the cuff smoothly and comfortably tight around your bare upper arm. 

Keeping these factors in mind, you can track your blood pressure effectively, with fewer chances of manual error interfering with your readings. 

At the end of the day, blood pressure readings are the most accurate representation of your body’s wellbeing. They can show you how exactly your lifestyle, habits and genetic predisposition is affecting your body. 

These blood pressure readings should be used as a start-off point that can lead you to cultivate better habits. No matter what your readings are, it is important that you follow a wholesome diet, exercise more, reduce stress and focus on living a life that is healthier, to prevent hypertension, or manage it effectively. 

Consistent self-tracking with a proactive mindset can go a long way in effectively managing and/or preventing further complications. 

Phable is an innovative lifestyle disease management app simplifying life for patients & doctors through video consultations and remote healthcare.

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