Blood Pressure — Keeping the Real Killer in the Cage
By Wil Dubois
A super-quick review for those of you who snuck into this article from the back door: we dFolk are bombarded with numbers, goals, and targets. We're frequently told where we should be, but not how high our risk is when we can't reach our targets. In this series of discussions we look at all of our important numbers and break them down into a simple green light, yellow light, red light format to put all of your critical numbers into a useful context. To give you perspective on when and how much to worry. When to relax, when to call your doc, and when to call 911.
Blood pressure readings are expressed as two numbers, usually shown wish a slash between them. The first number, called systolic, is the peak pressure when your heart pumps a wave of blood through your body. The second number, called diastolic, is the static pressure in your circulatory system when the heart is at rest.
You healthcare team will test your blood pressure at every visit. You can get it checked at most pharmacies or you can get a little machine to test it at home.
Green light blood pressure reading
For people with diabetes, the blood pressure goal is 130/80 mmHg, a little higher than the target for the rest of the population, which is 120/80. Well, technically, our guidelines call for blood pressure "less than" 130/80. Blood pressure is very sensitive to the world around you, so there's no way you can have the same reading all of the time. The good news here is that we have a pretty wide range of green light territory. In fact, the green light range for your blood pressure is 90-139/60-89.
Yellow light blood pressure reading
If your first blood pressure number is 140-159 and your second number is 90-99, you're in the yellow-light range, and need to talk to your medical team about starting, increasing, or adding medicine to lower your blood pressure. The closer you are to the high end range, the more urgent the conversation is. Even if you're already on medications for high blood pressure, you may need more. On average, people with hypertension require three different medications to control their blood pressure. Some folks need four. On the low end, you're starting to get too low if the first number is 89-60 and/or the second number is 59-45. Maybe your diet has changed. Maybe you lost weight. Maybe you won the lottery and are now living on a tropical island with less stress. If things change for the better, your doctor may need to reduce your high blood pressure pills.
Red light blood pressure reading
If your first blood pressure number is more than 160 and/or your second number is more than 100, you're in what's called "stroke" territoy." Yikes! Yeah, if the pressure on the inside walls of your blood vessels is that high, failure is only a matter of time. Blood pressures in this range are life-threatening emergencies. But blood pressure that's too low can kill you too, or at least make you faint, fall down, and bang your head. The most common causes of low blood pressure are over-medication and dehydration. Low red-light blood pressure is any reading in which your first number is below 60 and/or your second number is below 45. For perspective, medical literature defines 50/35 as the threshold for coma and death.
The diabetes blood pressure green light range is 90-139/60-89.
The high blood pressure yellow light range is 140-159/90-99.
The low blood pressure yellow light range is 60-89/45-59
The high blood pressure red light is more than 160 for the first number and/or more than 100 for the second number.
The low blood pressure red light is below 60 for the first number and/or below 45 for the second number.
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