The Heart House is pleased to announce that we will be opening up offices in Hammonton and Woodbury in February/March 2024.

For patients interested in being seen in one of those offices, please call 856-546-3006 ext 2100 and leave a message with your information for a Heart House team member to call you back.


Understanding & Interpreting Blood Pressure Readings

Doctor taking patient's blood pressure

Whenever you go to your doctor’s office, a nurse or medical assistant likely checks your blood pressure. Blood pressure is a significant risk factor for developing heart disease in the future, so keeping tabs on it is essential for continued cardiovascular preventative health. But when you get those two numbers, what exactly do they mean, and how should you interpret them? As you may (or may not) have guessed, blood pressure numbers are more complex than they seem, and the reading at your doctor’s office may only partially reflect your cardiovascular health. Let’s discuss this further.

To understand more about blood pressure, it’s essential to know more about what the two numbers mean. The upper number, or systolic blood pressure, is the pressure against the artery walls as the heart is beating. The lower number, or diastolic blood pressure, is the force placed upon the walls of those same arteries between beats.

You may ask why blood pressure does not go down to zero when between beats. This is because the arteries are flexible and are pushed outward during the heartbeat. Once the heart is at rest, the arteries contract and create blood pressure, albeit far less powerful for that fraction of a second.

Why May the Blood Pressure Reading at Your Doctor’s Office Not Be Accurate?

We are willing to bet that you are the slightest bit flustered when you come to visit us. You might be worried about arriving on time or have encountered a bad driver on the road. You may be coming off a stressful day at work or looking forward to something in the evening after your appointment. All these positive or negative emotions can affect your blood pressure, typically raising it higher than it would be when you’re sitting at home relaxed and content.

So Why Take My Blood Pressure?

That’s an excellent question, and we take your blood pressure in part to see if it is trending upwards. After all, a series of blood pressure readings can tell us a lot about your cardiovascular health. During your consultation, we will discuss any lifestyle, physical, or medication changes. However, there is yet another number we pay special attention to – the difference between the systolic and diastolic readings, known as pulse pressure.

What’s So Telling About Pulse Pressure?

If we find that these numbers are beginning to diverge, especially if the difference reaches 60, there is some reason to believe that the arteries may be hardening and are not performing as well as they once were. If you remember, the diastolic blood pressure reading is related to the contraction of the arterial walls after a big blood push from the beating heart. If the arteries have hardened, much like older rubber tires, there is much less give and consequently less snapback. This tells us that the arteries may be in less than perfect health, and we can begin to consider some follow-up diagnostic tests.

So, now you know the importance of your blood pressure reading – what to take with a grain of salt and what to look out for. If your cardiologist has asked you to measure your blood pressure at home, it’s probably for a good reason; to understand more about your cardiovascular health.

Of course, if you have any questions about your blood pressure or cardiovascular concerns, we encourage you to schedule an appointment with one of our cardiologists to discuss diagnoses and treatment options.

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