Understanding Your Blood Pressure Numbers

Understanding Your Blood Pressure Numbers

Your blood pressure is so important that during an air ambulance mission, we at Mercy Jets, continually monitor it status.  It is considered one of the principle vital signs.  But what is blood pressure and what do those numbers really mean?

What is Blood Pressure?

Read as 120 over 80 millimeters of mercury

Blood Pressure is a measurement of the force applied to the blood vessels in the body

Blood Pressure, is a measure of force against the walls of your arteries and veins.  It rises to a high (systolic) during the heart contractions and then falls to a low (diastolic) during the relaxation of the heart.  And while your blood pressure will vary depending upon your current activity (i.e. sitting, walking, sleeping, exercising), it should normally be less than 120 systolic and 80 diastolic for an adult 20 years or older.

The danger lays in the fact that you may go years with high blood pressure (hypertension) without any symptoms and having uncontrolled high blood pressure can put you at risk for serious health problems including heart attack and stroke.  According to the American Heart Association, 1 in 3 adults have high blood pressure.

Blood Pressure Chart

Have unusually low blood pressure readings evaluated by your physician.

A diagnosis of high B.P. cannot be determined by a single reading however.  If you or your physician are concerned about your B.P. then a monitoring program should begin to keep track of these reading over time, this may even include monitoring  your blood pressure at home.

 Remember!  Home monitoring is not a substitute for visits to your doctor!

Is Systolic or Diastolic more important?

In the past, more emphasis was placed upon diastolic pressure.  However the latest research indicates that high Systolic and high Pulse Pressure (the difference between the Systolic and Diastolic pressures) are also risk factors.  For people over the age of 50 the Systolic pressure is used as a major risk factor in the diagnosing of hypertension, due to the hardening of arteries and build up of plaque within the blood vessels.

Easy Steps

What are some easy steps you can take to help lower your blood pressure:

  • Be physically active for 30 minutes a day (a walk around the block does count)
  • Reduce your salt intake
  • Limit the amount of  alcohol you drink
  • Reduce your stress


If while monitoring your blood pressure you encounter a reading greater than 180 over 110, wait a couple of minutes and then take it again.  If the second reading is still 180/110 or above you may be having a Hypertensive Crisis.  It is imperative that you seek medical help immediately.

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