normal range when they’re not exercising or if heartbeats are irregular. Such issues can signal problems such as atrial fibrillation, or AFib, a serious condition that if left untreated can lead to blood clots, stroke, heart failure and other complications.
“We’re entering an era of smartwatches and other wearable devices that tell you when your pulse rate is abnormal and pick up on AFib,” Flack notes. “Having an irregular pulse rate is something people need an awareness of. If it’s not regular, if it’s racing or slowing down, if they’re getting funny readings, they need to get it checked.”
Blood pressure is the force of the blood pushing against blood vessel walls as it moves through them. If there’s too much pressure on them – if blood pressure is high – over time the force will damage them, causing small tears where plaque can build up, narrowing the space left for blood to flow. This makes the heart work harder and less efficiently. It can ultimately lead to irregular heartbeats, heart attacks or strokes.
According to the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology, a normal blood pressure reading for an adult is a systolic measurement (top number) of less than 120 mmHg and a diastolic reading (bottom number) under 80 mmHg.
Like heart rate, blood pressure goes up during exertion. That’s why it shouldn’t be measured until a person has been sitting quietly for a few minutes, Flack notes. “You don’t want to take it when someone has just climbed a flight of stairs.”
The AHA and ACC recommend measuring blood pressure while seated quietly with a straight back and both feet on the floor. It’s important not to drink caffeine, exercise or smoke within 30 minutes before the measurement. An appropriate-sized cuff should be used and the arm should rest at heart level on a flat surface, with the bottom of the cuff directly above the bend in the elbow. The cuff should not be placed over clothing.
To keep blood pressure levels within a healthy range, experts say eating a heart-healthy diet, staying physically active, limiting alcohol, not using tobacco products, maintaining a healthy weight, getting seven to nine hours of sleep each night and managing stress can help. Medications may be needed for people diagnosed with high blood pressure.
By the American Heart Association