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Is That a Good Number? Understanding Your Blood Pressure Reading

By |2023-01-05T12:04:49-05:00January 5th, 2023|Categories: Health A-Z|Tags: |

High blood pressure (hypertension) is when the force of blood flowing through your blood vessels is consistently too high. Often symptomless, it silently damages blood vessels and can lead to heart attack or stroke. “Because some patients with hypertension will not have symptoms, they are at greater risks for developing life-changing and life-threatening conditions,” says Kerry Stroud, MSN, RN, stroke coordinator at CentraState. “Understanding your blood pressure numbers can help you identify an issue before it’s too late.” Below we break down your blood pressure reading:

What do the top and bottom numbers mean?

The top is systolic blood pressure—how much pressure your blood exerts against your artery walls when the heart beats.

The bottom is diastolic blood pressure—how much pressure your blood exerts against your artery walls while the heart is between beats.


What’s a normal (or “good”) number?

Aim for 120/80 or lower. You want your systolic number to read 120 or less. A normal reading for the diastolic number is 80 or less.


Which number is more important?

Elevated systolic blood pressure is a major cardiovascular disease risk factor for people over 50. However, diastolic blood pressure may also be used to diagnose high blood pressure.  


What is my blood pressure reading is considered “above normal”?

High blood pressure can range from slightly elevated to managed hypertension to crisis level. It’s important to speak with a healthcare professional regarding your hypertension management needs.

Blood pressure levels are:

  • Elevated—120-129 and > 70
  • Hypertension Stage 1—130-139 or 80-89
  • Hypertension Stage 2— >140 or > 90
  • Hypertensive Crisis—180 or>120

If you reach the hypertensive crisis stage, do not wait to see if your numbers come down—seek immediate help!

Hypertensive crisis symptoms include chest pain, shortness of breath, back pain, numbness, weakness, change in vision, or difficulty speaking.


How do I prevent or manage high blood pressure?

Control hypertension by living a healthy lifestyle and reducing the salt in your diet. Many people with ongoing high blood pressure also require blood pressure medication.


Find support to manage high blood pressure at

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