What’s in a Number?

Posted Jun 9 2011, 12:01 am

Quick: what does this number mean – 74 million?

What about this one – 120?

And this one – 80?

How ‘bout these – 139, 89, 140, 90?

Give up?


Over 74 million American have hypertension; AKA “the silent killer;” AKA high blood pressure. Untreated high blood pressure can lead to such fun things as stroke, heart failure and kidney disease.

74 million Americans. That’s about one in four adults. In plain speak, that means between you and your three best gal-pals, one of you has high blood pressure.

Kinda scary, huh?

So what about the other numbers? 120/80 is a normal blood pressure (BP) reading. A reading between 120/80 and 139/89 is considered pre-hypertensive, or on the cusp of being high blood pressure. 140/90 means you have arrived and are hypertensive. You’re officially that “one out of four adults” with high blood pressure.

What leads to high blood pressure? A number of factors, some you can control and some you cannot. Let’s look at the controllable ones, it’s a familiar drill: lack of exercise, poor diet, stress, tobacco use, obesity and excessive alcohol use. (And, yes, there is such a thing as too much alcohol!)

How is high blood pressure treated? Well, any health care professional worth his or her salt is gonna address the controllable factors before prescribing a little blue, green or purple pill. If you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure, you need to watch your diet. Cut down on saturated fats, AKA red meat that has the great “marbling” in it. Eat more fish, especially salmon and mackerel. Both are fatty fish, but it’s the “good” monounsaturated, Omega 3 fat. Also pump up your intake of veggies and fruits. If you consume more of those, you’ll naturally cut down on the things you love to eat, but shouldn’t eat too much of.

Get outside and go for a walk – every day! It’s exercise anyone can do and it’ll also help reduce stress. (Get a pooch if necessary. It’s a built-in reason to walk.) If you smoke, quit. (I know it’s not that simple, so says a smoker for over twelve years. But consider the alternative.) Cut down on the booze, whether beer, wine or liquor. Yes, there are certain health benefits to drinking some alcohol, if the consumption is one drink/day for women and two drinks/day for men. (One drink equals 5 ounces of wine OR 12 ounces of beer OR one ounce of the hard stuff.) Join a yoga or Tai Chi class. Each will keep you moving and help reduce the stress in our stressful lives.

The uncontrollable factors which can lead to hypertension are age and family history. It’s true you can’t turn the clock back, but you can make the most of your time right now. So what if you’re in your mid-40s, 50s, or 60s? (I hear that 65 is the new 45 anyway.) If you eat right and exercise and do all the other controllable things, you won’t feel, look or even act your age. Trust me. And family history is no excuse to throw in the towel and say, “There’s nothing I can do about my high blood pressure.” My father-in-law had that attitude. Two years after suffering a heart attack, and ignoring the doctor’s advice and life-saving surgery, he was dead.

I know I’ve thrown a bunch of info at y’all, but knowing your blood pressure is vital to good health. I mean, there’s a reason they check it every time we go to the doc’s office, right? Knowledge is power and we all want to be empowered. So, know your numbers and if they’re too high, work to bring ‘em down. BTW, just went to the doc last week and guess what? My numbers were 112/72. Know what that means? It means you just stopped being “one out of four adults” and are now “one out of three” because I don’t have high blood pressure.

So what are your numbers?



12 responses to “What’s in a Number?”

  1. Emma Lai says:

    My blood pressure used to be 110 / 70. I had preeclampsia during labor and my blood pressure shot up to 178 over who knows what because did I mention I was in labor. Now my blood pressure hangs around 120 / 72. When I’m not feeling well it gets up to 130 / 90, which is why I try and stay healthy. I can feel the difference when it’s up. I get light-headed, my heart races and I feel like I can’t breath.

    Overall, I’m healthy, but it pays to be aware, especially when heart disease runs in your family.

    • lynda says:

      Ya, labor. Ask pretty much any male doc and they’ll proabbaly say labor feels like really bad cramps. (Wonder how’d they feel if a baby came out one of their orifices.)
      Good for you in knowing your numbers, especially if heart disease runs in your family tree. It’s in my hubby’s, but he’d rather take a pill in the hope it’ll go away. Not too likely. Though he’s lost about 20 pounds, he could stand to lose more. And while he doesn’t smoke any more, he needs to cut back on the alcohol – we both do. (Waa!)
      Thanks a bunch for popping in, Emma!

  2. Christine Rost says:

    My numbers are 42,9,2,1,2. Meaning I’m 42 years old and have been working out for 9 years. Two children occasionally try in induce hypertension, one husband consistently does. But on the up side, my 2 dogs help keep my BP at a low 105/92. Fun blog!

  3. Linda White says:

    Hi, Lynda!
    I think this is great information! I work constantly to eat right and keep off the 80 pounds I lost. Losing that weight returned my BP to normal! I love it every time the reading is 120/80 (in the doctor’s office!). But it is hard work. I feel guilty every time I have red meat or frozen yogurt. LOL!

    My mother’s was iffy but my Dad’s was low, so I’m hoping by keeping my weight under control my BP will stay good. I am still considered “obese” by medicos of course, but for me, this is so much better than it used to be. My European friends tell me I look “normal” for my age. Doesn’t that sound better than “clinically obese”? Even in high school as an athlete I did not weigh in at the -top- of my weight category for my height. ::sigh:: It’s the cross I bear. 🙂

    Nice column! Easy to leave a comment. 🙂

    • lynda says:

      Thanks for stopping by and major congrats of the awesome weight loss!
      While “medical standards” are important, what’s more important is your general health. And a normal BP is a strong indicator of good health.
      Thanks for the compliment to my post and site!

  4. Cate Rowan says:

    Just went a few days ago and I was 104/69. It’s usually a smidge lower. My dad (& hubby) have both dealt with high bp. Not fun!

    • lynda says:

      Thanks for stopping by and WOW, look at your numbers! And that’s a little high for you?? As to Diana’s point, there is such a thing as too low of a BP. Not that you’re in danger of that, but it’s something to keep in mind.
      Great to *see* you!

  5. Diana Sprain says:


    Another important fact about blood pressures. You can also have one too low. Hypotension results from too low of a blood pressure. Hypotension can be caused by illness or injury. Ever watch a TV show and hear the nurse or physician talk about shock?

    Low blood pressure is one of the signs. Systolic (the top number) and diastolic (the bottom number) will be low. A good way to tell this is be checking the pulse. EMS personnel look for different signs (what they can hear, feel and see) and symptoms (what the patient tells them) to determine if a person is in shock.

    Medication can also cause low blood pressure BP). Always talk to your physician with your concerns and know your normal vital signs (blood pressure, purse, temperature) Not everyone is 98.6 – I’m 97.6 )as is my mother). My resting BP is 96 / 64.

    • lynda says:

      Excellent point, Diana!
      I think it’s safe to say that low BP is not nearly the epidemic problem as high BP, though it is a condition some people suffer with.
      I don’t know what my exact resting BP is, but when I’ve gone under anesthetic for surgery, I tend to trip the monitor b/c my heart rate goes so low.
      Thanks a bunch for popping in!

  6. This blog is nice and amazing. I love your post! It’s also nice to see someone who does a lot of research and has a great knack for ting, which is pretty rare from bloggers these days.
    Blood pressure

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