Blood pressure in the body has two components. A top number or “systolic” blood pressure and a bottom number called the “diastolic” blood pressure. Guidelines for the treatment of high blood pressure recommend a goal of 140/90 or less (although recent evidence suggests lower target levels may be beneficial.) This goal can be a source of confusion for some patients. An easy way to understand this is by separating the 140/90 into two separate goals. Both the top and the bottom numbers need to be under the goal to be considered normal. So, even if one number is excellent, if the other is elevated, the blood pressure is still considered high.
Here are some examples of blood pressure readings that help you understand what is considered normal:
(mouse over the the boxes to see what is considered high or normal)
The “classic” blood pressure cuff monitor used by doctors and nurses in the office and hospital can look intimidating. Luckily today, electronic blood pressure monitors are widely available and are relatively inexpensive. Also, most commercial insurance providers in the United States offer a blood pressure monitor as a covered benefit to their clients. If this is the case, all you need is a prescription from your doctor to obtain a home monitor. Electronic blood pressure monitors are easy to use and accurate. Please follow the instructions provided with each device, making sure to position the cuff in the correct location on the arm or wrist.
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