Explaining Blood Pressure Charts

Blood pressure is one of the standard vital signs that are checked at nearly every encounter with a health professional. This measurement is an indicator of current heart health but can also be used as a tool for predicting the likelihood of serious medical conditions like strokes, heart attacks, aneurysms, kidney failure, and even blindness in the case of high blood pressure.

It also can be a precursor to dizziness, fainting and falls with low blood pressure.

Once diagnosed, problems are relatively easy to treat in most patients. With treatment, the risks of these complications decreases significantly. A sphygmomanometer measures blood pressure and medical professionals then compare the results against a blood pressure chart to determine any abnormality. This chart is also useful for patients who check their level at home as it can help them decide whether to seek medical attention.

Blood Pressure Charts Explained

Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury, or mmHg, and is reported as a combination of two numbers separated by a slash. The top number measures systolic pressure, artery pressure when the heart pumps blood. The bottom number is the diastolic pressure which is when the heart takes a break between beats. On a blood pressure chart, a range of systolic pressures, usually from 70 to 190 mmHg, is on the left vertical axis, and diastolic pressures span the bottom, horizontal axis. Different colors mark out the ranges for low, normal, pre-high, and high blood pressures.

Patients can find the lines that correspond with their top and bottom numbers and locate the point where these lines meet. The colored zone then determines what the numbers mean. Ideal blood pressure is the second set of ranges with systolic pressures between 90 and 120 mmHg and diastolic pressures from 60 to 80 mmHg.

The two higher zones indicate levels of elevated blood pressure. The first, with systolic values between 120 and 140 mmHg and diastolic pressures from 80 to 90 mmHg, denotes pre-high blood pressure. This is the range where patients need to make a primary care appointment and start an exercise and diet program. Official high blood pressure begins with a systolic of 140 mmHg and/or diastolic above 90 mmHg. These patients usually require medication. If a high reading is accompanied by other symptoms including chest pain, severe headache, or loss of vision, an emergency visit is necessary.

These standards are universal except for two exceptions. First, blood pressure charts do not apply to children or teenagers. Secondly, the acceptable range includes systolic pressures up to 150 mmHg for anyone over 60 years of age.

What Is Low Blood Pressure

Blood pressure readings that include either a top number under 90 mmHg or a bottom number less than 60 mmHg or both indicate low blood pressure. Having a value in this range does not necessarily mean there is a problem. In many cases, low blood pressure is a good thing, and it is especially common in athletes. When it occurs with other specific symptoms, though, it can require treatment. These symptoms include dizziness, passing out, clamminess, constant exhaustion, vision problems, fast breathing, and even depression.

In some cases, even in the absence of the above symptoms, low blood pressure that continues for a long period of time can indicate a problem somewhere else in the body. Internal bleeding, leaky heart valves, diabetes, a malfunctioning thyroid, vitamin deficiencies, and infection can all cause this phenomenon. Investigation of low pressures can lead to early diagnosis and treatment of potentially life-threatening or debilitating conditions. Bed rest after an injury, allergic reactions, and pregnancy can all also cause low blood pressure.

Even though the line between low and ideal blood pressure is clearly marked on the blood pressure chart, in reality, it is not so definite. Ideal for one patient could be low for another. For a complete picture, consultation with a health professional is necessary.