What's Your Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure is a measurement of how open your blood vessels are. Low numbers mean that your heart doesn’t have to work very hard to pump the blood through your blood vessels.

Have a professional test your blood pressure. Home blood-pressure machines tend to be inaccurate, as do those contraptions in the mall that charge a quarter for a reading.

When you have your blood pressure tested, keep the following in mind:

  • Ideally, your blood pressure should read 115/75 or below, a lower standard than the old standby of 120/80. If it’s slightly higher, don’t get stressed (that only increases it even more).

  • If your blood pressure is higher than 140/90, you are considered hypertensive, a fancy term for having high blood pressure.

  • The top number, called your systolic blood pressure, measures pressure as your heart ejects blood. The bottom number, your diastolic blood pressure, measures pressure when your heart relaxes and prepares for its next pump.

If you get a high blood-pressure reading, ask your tester to try again. The numbers can be affected by many factors, such as illness, caffeine, nervousness, or racing into your test because you were late. But if you repeatedly get high readings, see a doctor.

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