Learning to interpret your blood pressure could save your life

More than 1 in 3 Delawareans have high blood pressure. Are you one of them?

If you haven’t had your blood pressure checked recently, you might not even know. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, typically shows no symptoms earning it the name “the silent killer.”

The good news is that blood pressure checks are free and non-invasive.

The key is in understanding what the numbers mean.

A blood pressure reading is given using two numbers in the form of a fraction. The top number, or systolic pressure, measures the pressure of blood flowing through your arteries when your heart contracts, or beats. The bottom number, or diastolic pressure, measures the same flow when your heart is at rest in between contractions.

It makes sense, then, that the top number — when your heart is at work — will be higher than when it is resting.

A normal blood pressure is considered to be less than 120/80. The higher your blood pressure, the higher your risk for heart attack, stroke, kidney failure and vision loss, among other conditions.

The American Heart Association considers those with a systolic reading of 120-139 or a diastolic measure of 80-89 as being in prehypertension. If your readings are consistently 140/90 or higher, you have high blood pressure and need to take action with your doctor.

Emergency care may be needed for people with a 180 or higher systolic pressure over 110 or higher diastolic pressure.

Statistics show that hypertension is more common among African-Americans, with more than 40 percent of adults diagnosed with high blood pressure. To reach those at risk for high blood pressure and promote awareness of heart health, Christiana Care’s Blood Pressure Ambassador Program regularly provides blood pressure readings at sites in and around Wilmington.

The Blood Pressure Ambassadors provide a convenient way for you to find out your blood pressure, and if necessary, take steps to improve it.