Myths about blood pressure, heart rate, debunked

Blood pressure and heart rate go hand in hand (or arm in cuff) in most people’s minds. After all, these two vital signs are measured together at the doctor’s office.

But the two measure distinct factors related to your heart health. Blood pressure is the force of blood flowing against the walls of your arteries, while heart rate (or pulse) is the number of times your heart beats every minute. However, experts have explained some key differences and refuted some common myths about the condition.

Blood pressure and heart rate are always linked

False: It is true that blood pressure and heart rate often rise and fall together. When you face danger, for example, your blood pressure and pulse may both jump upward at the same time.

However, if your heart rate rises, that doesn’t automatically mean your blood pressure will rise or vice versa. When the two are disconnected, you may be looking at a specific problem. For example, if your blood pressure is consistently high, but your heart rate stays in your typical range, we may need to look at treatment specifically for high blood pressure.

There’s one ‘normal’ for blood pressure and heart rate

False: There are guidelines, but what’s normal varies from person to person.
Optimal blood pressure is typically defined as 120 mm Hg systolic (the top number, which is the pressure as your heart beats) over 80 mm Hg diastolic (the bottom number, which is the pressure as your heart relaxes). For your resting heart rate, the target is between 60 and 100 beats per minute. But keep in mind that both heart rate and blood pressure are a customised fit. You need to work with your doctor to establish a baseline that’s normal for you.

Going ‘low’ always indicates a problem.
False: What’s healthy for one person may indicate danger for another. For example, a young, fit person may have a resting heart rate in the 50s or, in some cases, even in the 40s. It can actually be a badge, a sign of being in really good shape.

To be continued next week.

This story was published in Newswatch Times on March 28,  2015.


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