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Know Your Numbers

Surprise your doctor the next time you go for a check up by knowing what the numbers of your blood pressure mean. Here’s an example of a blood pressure reading:

117/76 mm Hg

The top number, 117 is systolic blood pressure and measures the pressure in the arteries when your heart beats, also know as when the heart muscle contracts.

The number below it, 76 is diastolic pressure and measures the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats. This is the period when the heart muscle is resting between beats and refilling with blood.

The top number, or systolic blood pressure is generally the more important one when it comes to assessing major risk factors for cardiovascular disease for adults over 50 years old. It’s common for this particular demographic to have an increased systolic blood pressure due to the increased stiffness of large arteries, long-term buildup of plaque, and a higher chance of cardiac and vascular disease.