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Knowing Your 'Golden Number'

February 9, 2010, 6:09 PM by Kelli Grant

Knowing Your 'Golden Number'
SIOUX FALLS, SD - Whether it's 120 over 80 or 150 over 90, they're numbers you shouldn't ignore. That's because one in three adults has high blood pressure. So do you know what's high and what's considered too low?

You've seen a blood pressure cuff and you've seen your nurse use one. But what are they looking and listening for? The answer could save your life.

When it comes to getting a good blood pressure reading, there is such a thing as a "golden number." But what's normal for you, may not be normal for the next patient.

"If you fall into the normal range, you are good to go. If it's not within the normal range, if it's too low or too high, then it's a problem," McGreevy Clinic Avera Internal Medicine physician Dr. Suneet Verma said.

According to the American Heart Association, normal is considered 120 over 80 or slightly less.

"People can go from like 100 to 140 and will do fine if they don't have any other medical problem," Verma said.

Understanding Blood Pressure
Normal: Less than 120 and less than 80
Prehypertension: 120 – 139 or 80 – 89
High Blood Pressure, Stage 1: 140 – 159 or 90 – 99
High Blood Pressure, Stage 2: 160 or higher or 100 or higher
Hypertensive Crisis: Higher than 180 or Higher than 110
But Dr. Suneet Verma says anything higher than 140 over 90 could mean you have hypertension.

"If the pressures are high, it will translate into failing of the heart because the heart now has to pump against a high pressure," Verma said.

But what exactly are the two numbers telling your doctor? The top number, which should be the higher of the two, measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats or pumps out blood. The bottom number, which should be the lower of the two,
measures the pressure between heartbeats when the heart is relaxed.

"We used to always focus on like the top number, it should be less than 120. But no, some patients can have normal top numbers, but the bottom number or the lower number might be high. And that still is an abnormality that we need to work on," Verma said.

And think that stress at work isn't affecting your numbers? Think again.

"It can be high or low based on emotional status, when you're going through the stressors. People who do shift work, who cannot sleep in their regular hours, they work at night... those people. Emotional stressors, physical stressors, they all will altar the blood pressure," Verma said.

This month kicked off the Sioux Falls High Blood Pressure Awareness Initiative. It's also Heart Month. You can learn more about high blood pressure or hypertension online.

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