Do you know your blood pressure? It really is one of those numbers you really should know. If you do know your blood pressure number do you have any idea what it means? I heard this question asked in the hall of the radio station yesterday "What is a good blood pressure?"

Most of the time when I get my blood pressure taken at the doctor's office, the nurse straps on the cuff, pumps the bulb, looks at her watch and then takes the cuff off. There is very little said. When I ask what my blood pressure was I get an answer that involves two numbers. My next question is usually, "Is that good?" I am guessing this happens to you too.

What is a good blood pressure number? Obviously there isn't one number that is perfect for all of us but there is a range that is considered healthy.

What does the top number mean? That is the systolic number, it is usually the higher number and it is the measure of the pressure in the arteries when the heart muscle contracts.

What does the bottom number mean? That is the diastolic number, it is usually the smaller number and it measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart is at rest between heartbeats.

What are the dangers of high blood pressure? Among the really bad things that can happen to you are stroke, heart attack, kidney damage, vision loss, erectile dysfunction and death. That last one, death, that isn't a cure for that one yet.

The good news is that most high blood pressure can be controlled. It is usually a combination of diet and exercise and perhaps medication prescribed by your doctor. High blood pressure can be passed down through generations so if your parents had it, there is a better than average chance you will be subject to the condition as well.

They wouldn't go on record but a couple of medical professionals I talked to said don't trust the blood pressure machines you see in department stores and drug stores. Quite often these machines are not calibrated correctly and could give you a false reading. It is best to have your blood pressure checked by a knowledgeable medical technicians who can give you good advice on what your next steps should be if your blood pressure is determined to be high.

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