What is the Definition of ‘Ideal’ or ‘Normal’ Blood Pressure?
The terms ‘ideal’ or ‘normal’ when referring to blood pressure, generally relate to blood pressure readings deemed optimal for the normal functioning of the human body. This blood pressure range lies in between pressure levels which are likely to present increased risks and complications from having either too low or too high a blood pressure. As pressure readings move away from the normal range, a person can experience mild symptoms and slightly increased health risks through to severe risks, organ failure and ultimately death. Quite often there are no noticeable symptoms until it is too late, which is why high blood pressure (hypertension) in particular, is often referred to as the ‘silent killer’.
Normal blood pressure is generally agreed to be in the range anywhere between readings of 90-over-60mmHg and 120-over-80mmHg. With the first number in each representing the systolic pressure – when the heart contracts on a beat pushing blood out, and the second, the diastolic reading, where the heart relaxes and dilates between beats. The mmHg units refer to millimetres of mercury and you can read about why mmHg is used here.
How Do I know If My Blood Pressure Is Normal?
You can enter any blood pressure reading and see it plotted on different blood pressure charts with detailed analysis on the home page of xBloodPressure.com. You will note that there are some minor variations between institutions as to when each classifies the start of high blood pressure (hypertension). The American ACC/AHA hypertension scale was recently revised to have the diastolic level of 80mmHg be the start of hypertension stage 1, while others such as the World Health Organisation (WHO) would only class high blood pressure as occurring when having a diastolic reading higher than 90mmHg, and/or a systolic reading of over 120mmHg on two different days.
It is important to record a variety of blood pressure readings and not place too much emphasis on a single reading, as there are numerous factors which might affect an individual BP reading. Gathering blood pressure readings for you and your family can be easily done at home with the assistance of an automated blood pressure cuff such as those from Omron.
How Do I Maintain Normal Blood Pressure?
If your blood pressure readings are coming in as normal or ideal that’s fantastic and you should either seek to maintain a healthy lifestyle or focus on adopting one to prevent the onset of higher blood pressure later in life. Similarly if your average blood pressure readings are coming in slightly higher than normal and you are looking to lower blood pressure, there are number of things you can do to keep your blood pressure within the recommended range:
Look To Maintain a Healthy Body Weight
People who lose weight typically experience a corresponding drop in their elevated blood pressure readings too. Losing 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds), tends to reduce blood pressure readings by 1mm of mercury (mmHg). It is recommended that women should aim to keep their waist sizes under 89 centimetres or 35 inches and men should keep theirs less than 89cm or 40″ (this does vary depending ethnic group though so check with your doctor). Carrying too much fat around the waist increases the risk of high blood pressure, more so than carrying weight in other areas of the body.
Establish A Healthy Diet
By eating a diet low in saturated fat it means you are less likely to put on weight and thereby avoid the related blood pressure increase. It is also advisable to keep the amount of salt in your diet relatively low, as salt increases blood pressure. However as seen with caffeine intake too, which can also increase blood pressure after consuming it by around 10mmHg, sensitivity does vary from person to person. Eating foods high in potassium content has been shown to reduce the effects of salt on blood pressure though, foods high in potassium would include things like bananas, potatoes, spinach, broccoli, melon and oranges. Most adults should aim to limit their sodium intake to around 1.5 grams a day (a teaspoon has about 2.5g), choose low salt varieties of processed foods as this is the main source of salt in the typical diet and pay attention to food labelling to get a better idea of how your salt intake is adding up.
Quit Smoking & Vaping And Reduce Alcohol If You Drink It
Smoking, vaping or drinking too much alcohol can cause both short and longer term increases in blood pressure. Some studies have shown that low levels of alcohol reduce blood pressure, but exceeding recommended intake levels may well lead to alcohol induced hypertension. It is thought that about sixteen precent of the US population currently suffers from alcohol induced hypertension.
See If You can Reduce Stress
Stress elevates blood pressure and pulse rate due to the release of the cortisol stress hormone, the function of which is to benefit you in a fight or flight situation. However in the modern setting where you’re usually no longer running from a predator, consistently high cortisol rates caused by things like day to day work stress and financial worries can be damaging to your body. See if you can find ways to avoid stressful situations or attempt to handle stressful situations as calmly as you can. Some people find things like meditation, listening to some relaxing music, chatting with friends or watching some comedy helps towards achieving relaxation, reducing stress and keeping their blood pressure lower.
Consistent regular exercise of 30 minutes a day or more helps to keep blood pressure down, whether that’s fast walking, jogging, swimming, weight training or any active sports activity each can be beneficial in helping maintain a healthy blood pressure.
Normal Blood Pressure in Summary
In summary it is important to maintain your blood pressure within the optimum range for your health. With the slight variance mentioned above, this is typically considered within a range of between 90-over-60mmHg and 120-over-80mmHg, either side of this and the risks to your health increase yet often without showing any noticeable symptoms. Reliance on a single reading is inadvisable because so many factors can influence those readings at particular times. It is advisable to purchase a home blood pressure monitor and record multiple readings to attain a good average before leaping to conclusions. Various factors within our control can help us maintain our blood pressure in a healthy range revolving around diet, exercise and stress control.
Remember you can check out any blood pressure reading and see what it means from the front page of www.xbloodpressure.com
See also, ‘What is Normal Blood Pressure for Women?‘