Blood Pressure F.A.Q.

What is Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure is the force of blood being pushed against the walls of blood vessels in the circulatory system. High blood pressure means that there is too much pressure in these vessels.

Over time, high blood pressure (referred to as Hypertension) can damage blood vessel walls and promote the buildup of fatty plaque. This buildup can narrow and eventually block arteries, straining and weakening your heart. About 25% of Canadians have high blood pressure.  As we age our blood vessels narrow and harden. ""Atherosclerosis"" is a common condition in which plaque, made up of cholesterol, fatty substances, calcium, fibrim- a muscle clotting protein, and cellular waste builds up on the inner walls of the arteries. This build up can narrow and eventually block arteries, straining and weakening your heart.

What do your Numbers Mean?

Blood pressures is the pressure in your blood vessels while blood circulates throughout your body. High blood pressure or “Hypertension” is the pressure at which ones normal average blood pressure is considered too high and other health risks including: heart attack, stroke, dementia, kidney failure, heart disease and erectile dysfunction may occur. It is expressed as two numbers: systolic/diastolic 120 mmHg/80 mmHg (mmHg = millimeters of mercury). “Systolic” numbers refer to the pressure on the walls of your arteries
while the heart is contracting and pushing blood. “Diastolic” pressure is the lower number when the heart is at rest and relaxed. A simple way to understand this is to picture a garden hose. When the tap is turned on, the immediate pressure on the walls of the hose is the “systolic” value, and when the tap is
turned off it is the “diastolic” number.

There are many different causes of high blood pressure. We differentiate between common primary (essential) hypertension, and secondary hypertension. The latter group can be ascribed to specific organic
malfunctions. Please consult your doctor for information about the possible origins of your own increased blood pressure values.

Normal Blood Pressure Values

Blood pressure is too high when measuring at home and you have rested, the diastolic pressure is above 85 mmHg or the systolic blood pressure is over 135 mmHg. If you obtain readings in this range, consult your doctor immediately. High blood pressure values over time can damage blood vessels, vital organs
such as the kidney, and your heart.

With blood pressure values that are too low (i.e., systolic values under 105 mmHg or diastolic values under 60 mmHg), consult with your doctor.

Systolic Diastolic Comment
Below 120 Less than 80  This range is considered "Normal" and ideal.
120 - 139 80 - 89 This range is considered “Pre-hypertension”. Discuss with your health care professional. Lifestyle modifications maybe required to avoid advancing into hypertension.
140 - 159 90 - 99  This is in the “hypertension” range. Discuss with your health care professional. Medication(s) and lifestyle modifications are typical treatments.
160 and higher 100 + Discuss with your medical professional, medication(s) and lifestyle modifications are necessary to control your hypertension

Adopted From: Understanding and Managing your blood pressure; Hypertension Canada.
Note: A diagnosis of high blood pressure must be confirmed with a medical professional. A doctor should evaluate any unusual blood pressure readings. Additionally, lower targets may be appropriate for some populations such as African-Americans, the elderly, or patients with underlying issues such as diabetes mellitus or chronic kidney disease.

Important for Canadians:
* Hypertension measured at home ≥ 135/85
* Hypertension measured at a physician’s office ≥ 140/90
* Hypertension measured at a physician’s office for a diabetic patient ≥ 130/80

What causes Hypertension?

In addition to genetics, Hypertension can be caused by many controllable factors including obesity lack of physical activity, salt intake, alcohol intake, and stress. As we age we become increasingly vulnerable to high blood pressure. High blood pressure can lead to heart disease, stroke, dementia, and kidney disease.

Can it be prevented or controlled?

By closely monitoring your blood pressure and making a few lifestyle changes your high blood pressure can be controlled

Comparing Readings to Other Blood Pressure Devices

Many questions arise when two blood pressure devices are compared in an effort to check accuracy. An accurate comparison requires repeatable measurements under the same conditions to “reference device” with known
accuracy. Significant time is required to reduce naturally occurring blood pressure variability during the test. The subject should be seated comfortably with feet flat on the floor, and have rested for 5 minutes before the first
reading to allow blood pressure levels to stabilize.

The patients back, elbow and forearm should be supported, and the middle of the cuff should be at the level of the right atrium. There should be no talking or moving during the measurement and if comparing to an aneroid gauge
or mercury column, observers should avoid parallax and be careful not to round measurements.

The most accurate way to compare devices is to take two readings at the same time. However, most people and doctor’s offices do not have the equipment necessary to measure blood pressure from two devices simultaneously.
To take sequential measurements properly requires a pair of initial measurements to determine the subjects blood pressure level: first with the reference equipment, followed by 60 seconds, then with the monitor-under-test.
The actual accuracy test requires three pairs of measurements with 60 seconds between measurements. These measurements are averaged and a comparison can be made. Since most people tend to relax and their blood pressure falls with subsequent measurements, following this protocol reduces these natural changes in Blood Pressure levels. The standard technical error of both consumer and professional devices is normally ±3 mmHg, so a discrepancy of 6 mmHg is acceptable even when the devices are working within their specifications.

Any comparisons without a known “reference device” and not following the procedures described above will yield unreliable results. In addition, to do an accuracy test properly the reference device must also be tested to a known
reference to confirm its accuracy, prior to being used as the reference for comparisons.

Cardiovascular exercise like walking like walking, running, and cycling can help lower your blood pressure. Sports are a great way to reduce stress and get cardiovascular exercise. Start with 20 minutes a day and work yourself up. Make sure to check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.

Diet is a key component in maintaining healthy blood pressure. Avoiding processed foods is a good first step to reduce your sodium and saturated fat intake. Try incorporating some heart healthy foods into your diet including dark berries, leafy greens, lean meats, and beans

Home monitoring is a crucial step on your path to healthy blood pressure levels. Experts have found that frequent measurements at home provide a more accurate understanding of a person’s average blood pressure than measurements taken at the doctor’s office. Tracking and reviewing home readings with your doctor is a great way to monitor your progress.

What is a normal blood pressure range, and why is it important to maintain it?

Understanding the normal blood pressure range (typically around 120/80 mm Hg) is crucial for assessing cardiovascular health. Maintaining a healthy blood pressure helps reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and other related conditions.

How often should I measure my blood pressure at home, and what is the best time to do it?

Regular monitoring is key. For most individuals, measuring blood pressure at home once or twice a day at the same time is recommended. Mornings are often suggested, as they provide a baseline before daily activities.

Can stress affect blood pressure, and what strategies can help manage stress-related hypertension?

Yes, stress can influence blood pressure. Employing stress management techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, and regular exercise can help mitigate its impact on hypertension.

What are the potential symptoms of high blood pressure, and when should I seek medical attention?

High blood pressure is often called the "silent killer" as it may not present obvious symptoms. Regular monitoring is essential. Seek medical attention if you experience severe headaches, shortness of breath, chest pain, or visual disturbances.

Are there lifestyle changes that can positively impact blood pressure levels?

Adopting a healthy lifestyle can significantly improve blood pressure. This includes maintaining a balanced diet low in sodium, regular exercise, limiting alcohol intake, quitting smoking, and managing stress effectively. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making significant lifestyle changes.