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There’s always a lot of talk about blood pressure, and all of us understand that high blood pressure can be problematic. However, for many of us, the specifics of blood pressure still remain unclear.  We’ll take you through a step-by-step guide to give you a crystal clear idea of what blood pressure is and what it means for you.

It may be simple, but it’s always important to understand the basics to get a full understanding of how blood pressure will affect your overall health.  Blood pressure is the amount of force that your blood is placing on the walls of your arteries as it gets pumped through your body. And it’s one of the main vital signs used to assess your most basic body functions. High blood pressure means your blood is pressing hard against your arteries as it circulates; low blood pressure is low force on your arteries.

When the doctor places the wrap around your arm and pumps it up, he or she is temporarily cutting off the circulation to your arm in order to measure your maximum blood pressure. This is the systolic blood pressure, which forces the mercury in the tube to rise, reflecting the amount of pressure in your arm at that time. The second measurement is the diastolic pressure, which is your resting pressure rate.

Blood pressure readings are given as two numbers in a form of a ratio.  The top number is the systolic blood pressure and the bottom number is diastolic pressure. The readings are measured in “millimeters of mercury”, so a pressure reading of 120/80 would read as “120 over 80 millimeters of mercury.”

In regards to blood pressure, lower is generally better.  However, extremely low blood pressure can be a sign of a serious health problem. But, in general, as long as your systolic is higher than 90 and your diastolic higher than 60 you should be encouraged by lower numbers.  This means that your heart is exerting less effort pumping blood through your body, and is a sign that your cardiovascular system is fit, running well, and not experiencing any blockages.

Those who are active and exercise often will most likely have lower blood pressure and a slower hear rate than those who don’t.  Smoking, an unhealthy diet, and excess weight put more pressure on your heart to pump blood through your system and will increase pressure on your arteries.

According to the American Heart Association, blood pressure “should normally be less than 120/80 mm Hg (less than 120 systolic and less than 80 diastolic) for an adult age 20 or over.

As you can see from the table, pressure readings of around 130/90 should be an indicator of when you should seriously start to take note. At this point, it’s advised to start making lifestyle changes regarding diet and exercise in an effort to lower your blood pressure.

Blood Pressure

mm Hg (upper #)

mm Hg (lower #)


less than 120


less than 80


120– 139


80– 89

High Blood Pressure
(Hypertension) Stage 1

140– 159


90– 99

High Blood Pressure
(Hypertension) Stage 2

160or higher


100or higher

Hypertensive Crisis
(Emergency care needed)

Higher than 180


Higher than 110

Some largely held beliefs that those with high blood pressure (HBP) will experience frequent headaches, facial flushing, nervousness and sweating are unsubstantiated by scientific tests.  None of these symptoms have been shown to be directly related to HBP, however, you should not wait to see symptoms before you testing yourself for HBP.  HBP typically develops over the course of years and many people can have it for several years without showing any symptoms.  To stay ahead of problems, you should get your blood pressure measured at least every few years to prevent any serious health issues from developing.

Risk factors

  • Behavior

    Common-sense lifestyle choices can go a long way in decreasing your personal risk of high blood pressure.  Being overweight is a surefire way to develop high risk of HBP.  We can’t all be professional athletes, however, maintaining a reasonable weight can reduce the risk of HBP and heart complications.  High levels of alcohol and tobacco use contribute to HBP as well.  In addition to the multitude of other positive health benefits from quitting smoking, HBP risk will also be reduced significantly.  As we get older, all of our levels of risk increase; so remember to keep a healthy diet, get out and exercise whenever possible, and try to limit yourself to a reasonable level of alcohol consumption. Doing these three things will help reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

  • Family history

    High blood pressure tends to run in the family.  If your family has a history of heart issues, you are most likely at a higher risk than others of developing high blood pressure.  It’s important to be aware of whether or not you may have inherited genes that predispose you to a higher risk of blood pressure issues.

  • Sodium

    High salt intake in diets has been consistently linked to risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes.  Most of the sodium we eat comes from processed foods bought at the store and restaurants.  A quick step toward reducing sodium intake is to reduce your reliance on these types of foods.

One World Cover recommends that expats get their blood pressure tested at each yearly physical.  Here are some insurance providers that cover outpatient health check-ups in China.  If you’d like to learn more, please contact an expert consultant at One World Cover to discuss individual and group plans.