One in three American adults have high blood pressure or hypertension. Having high blood pressure places your patients at risk for systemic diseases such as heart disease and stroke. Heart disease is the leading cause of death and stroke is the third-leading cause of death in the United States. Twenty-five percent of American adults have prehypertension–blood pressure that is higher than normal. Prehypertension raises your patients’ risk for high blood pressure.
Blood pressure is the force exerted by the blood on the blood vessel walls. This force makes a noise called Korotkoff sounds. When the left ventricle of the heart contracts, blood is forced out into the aorta and travels through the large arteries to the smaller arteries, arterioles, and capillaries. During the course of the cardiac cycle, blood pressure is changing constantly.
Systolic pressure is the peak or highest pressure. It is caused when the heart muscle contracts. The normal systolic pressure is less than 120mm Hg. With patients over 50 years of age, a systolic reading higher than 140mm Hg is a greater risk factor with cardiovascular disease, than a high diastolic reading.
Diastolic pressure is the lowest pressure. It measures the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats (when the heart muscle is resting between beats and refilling the blood.) The normal diastolic pressure is less than 80mm Hg.
Pulse pressure is the difference between the systolic and the diastolic pressures. The normal or safe difference is less than 45mm Hg.