No Pressure Blood Pressure

The Skinny on Blood Pressure

What is Blood Pressure?

In simplest terms, blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of arteries. Blood pressure is recorded as the measure of systolic pressure over diastolic pressure, so if you hear the numbers 125/80, you now know that the first number refers to systolic and the second to diastolic pressure.

Systolic Blood Pressure

  • The force of blood as the heart beats
  • top number in a blood pressure reading
  • 140/+ = high systolic blood pressure
  • Systolic blood pressure does not need to be high for you to have high blood pressure

Diastolic Blood Pressure

  • The force of blood as the heart relaxes between beats
  • It is the bottom number in a blood pressure reading
  • The higher the Diastolic number, the greater the risk for heart attacks, strokes, and kidney failure—especially in younger people
  • Diastolic blood pressure is higher in younger people because they have smaller hearts
  • As people become older, the Diastolic blood pressure will decrease and Systolic blood pressure will increase

High Blood Pressure

  • Medically defined as hypertension
  • High blood pressure increases your chance/risk for heart disease, and having a stroke, the 1st and 3rd leading causes of death in Americans
  • High blood pressure can also result in congestive heart failure (CHF), kidney disease, and blindness
  • High blood pressure makes the heart work too hard and contributes to arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries)
  • Anyone can develop high blood pressure—regardless of age, race, or gender
  • African Americans are at higher risk of developing high blood pressure than other ethnic groups

What is Considered High BP?

  • 140/90 mmHg or higher
  • two-thirds of people 65+ yrs have high blood pressure
  • Blood pressure between 120/80 and 139/89 is considered pre-hypertension -- or high normal BP
  • Those who do not have high blood pressure by age 55 face a 90% chance of developing it at some time in their lives
  • Both Systolic and Diastolic numbers are important in determining high blood pressure
  • Systolic numbers in people 50/+ yrs are more accurate in determining high blood pressure

Blood Pressure Levels (mmHg)

Category                      Systolic  Diastolic

Normal                          <120/<80
Pre-hypertension            120-139/ 80-89
High Blood Pressure
Stage 1 Hypertension      140-159/ 90-99
Stage 2 Hypertension      >160/>100

Risks associated with high blood pressure


  • high BP can cause a break in weakened blood vessels, which then bleeds to the brain
  • a blood clot blocking a narrowed artery can also cause a stroke

Impaired Vision:

  • High BP can cause blood vessels in the eyes to burst or bleed, making vision blurred and resulting in blindness


  • High BP is associated with hardening of the arteries—arteriosclerosis—in the heart, brain, and kidneys
  • As arteries harden, their pathways for blood flow become narrower, causing the heart and kidneys to work harder

Kidney Damage:

  • Kidneys serve to filter our bodies of waste products
  • High BP can narrow and thicken the blood vessels of the kidneys, resulting in waste product build-up in the blood
  • Eventually the kidneys could fail, resulting in dialysis or a kidney transplant

Heart Attack/Myocardial Infarction:

  • Arteries bring oxygen-carrying blood to the heart muscle
  • If the heart cannot get enough oxygen, chest pain—angina pectoris—can occur
  • When the flow of blood is blocked by a clogged artery, the result is a heart attack

Congestive Heart Failure (CHF):

  • High BP is the number one risk factor for CHF
  • CHF is a serious condition in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood to supply the body’s needs
School of Health Sciences and Human Performance  ·  Ithaca College  ·  Ithaca, NY 14850  ·  (607) 274-3237  ·  Full Directory Listing