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Systolic vs. Diastolic Blood Pressure

For many of us, blood pressure is merely the reading our doctor takes at the beginning of our annual physical. The two numbers they mention (your systolic and diastolic blood pressure measurements, ex. 124/80) only attract concern if they’re paired with a worried expression. But understanding more about these numbers can help you avoid bigger health issues down the road. 

If you've always wondered what these numbers mean or suddenly found yourself concerned with a diagnosis of high blood pressure (aka Hypertension), you’ve come to the right place.

Here’s a quick run through of what those numbers mean and which you should be more concerned about.

Under pressure

So, what do these two numbers mean, and how are they different?

Both are good questions. Like they say, knowledge is power. And when it comes to blood pressure, that’s especially true.

In fact, blood pressure is the measurement of the amount of power (aka pressure) that your blood is exerting on your artery walls. That first number (or top number, in written form)—systolic—shows how much pressure is exerted while your heart is beating. The second number (the bottom number in written form)—diastolic—is a measurement of the pressure between beats.

Reading between the lines

With the basic definitions out of the way, let’s talk numbers. Where do you want them? What does it mean if one is high and the other is low, or any other weird combinations?

Simply put, anything below 120/80 is considered in the normal range. Unless of course it’s way lower, which gets into the low blood pressure range, and is a discussion for a different blog post.  Anything higher than 130/80 falls into hypertension territory. 

You may have noticed a 10-point gap between normal and hypertension. That’s because 120-129 systolic, with a sub-80 diastolic reading is considered elevated.

Important questions

Okay, so now that you know the names and what they mean, it’s time to ask the most important question. Specifically—which is more important? 

The short answer is – systolic. At least it’s the one that usually gets more attention. Which makes sense, since it’s a major indicator of an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

However, the slightly longer, but still concise answer is – systolic and diastolic. Not surprisingly, having both numbers in a healthy range is good for you and your heart.

Caring about your systolic and diastolic blood pressure numbers before they become a problem can help to keep you and your heart healthier. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your diastolic of systolic blood pressure readings, be sure to discuss them with your doctor.

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