What does the blood pressure measurement mean, and what is high blood pressure?
When you get a reading, it usually looks something like 120/70 — it has an upper reading and a lower reading.
The upper reading, called the systolic pressure, is the amount of force exerted by the heart when it contracts to push blood around the body.
A cuff around your arm connects to a column of mercury.
You, your doctor, or a machine listens for the first sound you hear on the side of the cuff away from your heart.
That sound is the sound of blood finally able to overcome the pressure in the cuff and get through to the other side. The systolic blood pressure is the height of the column of mercury, read in millimeters, just as the blood comes through.
(Sometimes the cuff is not connected to a column of mercury but to a gauge that is calibrated so the reading on the gauge is in millimeters of mercury even though no mercury is present.)
In our example, the systolic blood pressure reading is 120 mm of mercury.
The lower reading, called the diastolic blood pressure, is the pressure in the artery when the heart is at rest. A valve in the heart keeps the blood from flowing backwards so that the pressure does not fall to zero (you hope).
When the sound stops, the height of the mercury column gives the diastolic blood pressure, in this case 70 mm of mercury.
All the complications of diabetes are made worse by an elevation in blood pressure, especially diabetic kidney disease but also eye disease, heart disease, nerve disease, peripheral vascular disease, and cerebral arterial disease.
The most recent evidence of the importance of controlling blood pressure in diabetes comes from the United Kingdom Prospective Diabetes Study, published in late 1998. This study found that a lowering of blood pressure by 10 mm systolic and 5 mm diastolic resulted in a 24 percent reduction in any diabetic complication and a 32 percent reduction in death related to diabetes.
Controlling the blood pressure is absolutely essential in diabetes.
The goal in diabetes is an even lower blood pressure than in the person without diabetes because studies have shown that lower normal blood pressures result in less diabetic damage than higher normal blood pressures.
Your blood pressure should be no higher than 130/80.
(The above is taken from the book entitled, “Diabetes for Dummies” Chapter 7, Pages 147-148)
Don’t wait for your next doctor’s appointment to have your blood pressure tested, purchase a blood pressure monitor to test yourself at home and document your findings.
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