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Kraig W. Jacobson, M.D.

Allergy, Asthma & Immunology

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What does your blood pressure mean?

Posted by on in Primary Care
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May is High Blood Pressure Education Month and May 17th is World Hypertension Day. The CDC reports that nearly 68 million people have high blood pressure. Aso called hypertension, high blood pressure increases the risk of heart disease and stroke, which are two of the top three leading causes of death in the United States.

Blood pressure is typically written as two numbers. The first (systolic) number is the top number and it is the higher of the two numbers. It measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats. The second (diastolic) is the bottom number, which is the lower of the two numbers and  measures the pressure in the arteries between heart beats.

Normal blood pressure is a systolic number less than 120 mmHg and diastolic number less than 80 mmHg. High or abnormal blood pressure is a systolic number of 140 mmHg or higher or diastolic number of 90 mmHg or higher. If your numbers fall in between, with a systolic number ranging from 120-139 mmHg or diastolic ranging from 80-89 mmHg, you are considered to be in the prehypertension category.

Below is a chart created by the American Heart Association that will help you see where you fall in terms of blood pressure:

Quick facts on high blood pressure:

  • One in three adults have high blood pressure.
  • One in three adults with high blood pressure do not get treatment.
  • One in two adults with high blood pressure do not have it under control.
  • For people younger than 45 years old, the condition affects more men than women. Women 65 years and older are more affected than their male counterparts.
  • Over 20 percent of American adults ages 18 years or older have prehypertension.
  • In the U.S., high blood pressure is more common among African Americans than whites; about 44 percent of African American women have high blood pressure.
  • Hypertension is a major risk factor for heart disease, congestive heart failure, kidney disease and stroke.
  • In 2007, high blood pressure was a primary or contributing cause of death for 336,353 Americans. Also in 2007, more than 46 million visits were made to doctor’s offices for hypertension.

Hypertension in industrialized countries
Among most populations in industrialized countries, the prevalence of hypertension increases dramatically with age; in the United States the prevalence increases from about 10 percent in persons 30 years of age to 50 percent in those 60 years of age. However, some persons, including strict vegetarians, whose diet consists of mostly vegetable products, and those whose sodium intake is low, have virtually no increase in hypertension with age.

What can you do?
You can be aware of hypertension. We also recommend that you raise awareness of hypertension with your family and friends. Consider sending a Health-e-Card, which poses the question “Do you know your blood pressure numbers?” Please feel free to ask our physicians about hypertension.

We will discuss hypertension prevention, as well as diet, genetic factors and hypertension types in greater detail in future blog posts, so check back often.

Tagged in: Blood Pressure

An energetic problem solver, Dr. Kraig Jacobson has spent his career treating patients and teaching about the complexities of allergy, asthma and immunology. He has practiced medicine in Eugene since 1979. The bigger the challenge, the more he enjoys his work.