Understanding blood pressure

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You’ve heard of high blood pressure and hypertension. Dr. Rachel Reitan explains exactly what they mean and why it’s important to keep your blood pressure in a healthy range.

The first number in a blood pressure reading is called the systolic pressure. It’s the amount of force your heart is using to pump blood around your body. The second number, or diastolic pressure, is when the heart relaxes.

A healthy systolic pressure is usually somewhere around 80-120, while a healthy diastolic pressure should be 60-80. When reading the measurement, you’ll say your pressure is “100 over 70.”

Blood pressure that’s too high can damage your heart, cause stroke or aneurysm. This is because the high pressure can slowly damage the blood vessels, just like a garden hose spraying a sand wall.

You can check your blood pressure for free at most drug stores. Just ask if they have a blood pressure kiosk. If the measurement is greater than 120/80, see a doctor.