Blood pressure is important to good heart health — even for kids and teenagers. The good news is that getting it checked is quick and painless. Your doctor or school nurse can measure it.Blood pressure is a measure of how easy or difficult it is for your heart to pump blood through your body. When the heart beats, the blood that’s pumped exerts pressure against the blood vessel walls. When your heart and blood vessels are healthy, the vessels are flexible enough to expand and contract. This expansion and contraction produces the blood pressure. But sometimes, blood vessels become narrow or less flexible. This makes the heart pump harder to get the blood to go through the vessels. The result is an increase in pressure in the vessels or high blood pressure.
Why is keeping your blood pressure healthy important?Having high blood pressure, which is also called hypertension, can lead to significant damage to your heart or brain. People often don’t have any symptoms when their blood pressure is high. That’s why hypertension is called the “silent killer.” People with high blood pressure are more likely to have a heart attack or stroke than people with normal blood pressure.
Fortunately, you can make healthy choices that will help you control your blood pressure. Keeping your weight healthy, eating a heart-healthy diet with low levels of sodium and getting enough regular physical activity can help keep your blood pressure normal.
How and when should I measure my blood pressure?An inflatable cuff is wrapped around your arm to measure your blood pressure. The person measuring your blood pressure inflates the cuff so that it presses against your arm. The gauge measures the pressure your blood creates as it pushes blood through your arm past the cuff.
Blood pressure is measured using two numbers. The first number (systolic) represents the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats. The second number (diastolic) represents the pressure in your vessels when your heart rests between beats. If the measurement is 120 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) systolic and 80 mmHg diastolic, you would say “120 over 80” or write it as “120/80 mmHg.”
How do I know if my blood pressure is healthy?When you’re a child or adolescent, healthy blood pressure depends on your age, gender, and height. Talk to your parents and your pediatrician or healthcare provider to be sure you know the best number for you.
Here are tips and questions for you to think about blood pressure and keeping your heart healthy:
- If you haven’t had your blood pressure checked lately, talk to a parent about scheduling an appointment or stopping by a pharmacy to get it done.
- What are three steps you can take to keep your blood pressure healthy?
Last Reviewed 8/2014