Heart Rate and Blood Pressure: What’s the Difference?
Heart rate and blood pressure are two of four measurements of essential body functions that help assess a person’s general health, and give clues to possible diseases.
The other two are body temperature and respiratory rate. We are familiar with body temperature, since it is often measured at home to check for infection. Respiratory rate refers to the number of breaths a person takes every minute. But heart rate and blood pressure sound synonymous.
Heart Rate and Blood Pressure
Your heart rate, also known as your pulse, refers to the number of times your heart beats per minute. Your blood pressure, on the other hand, is a measure of how forcefully your blood flows through your veins. If you think these two measures are the same, you’re not alone. But you’re not correct, either. These two tests of blood flow are not only different, they’re not even directly related to one another. As heart rate speeds up, blood pressure may stay the same, since healthy blood vessels will dilate to allow more blood to flow through them. In fact, it is possible for your heart rate to double while your blood pressure hardly changes at all.
So heart rate refers to the speed of your heartbeat, while the blood pressure refers to the amount of pressure your blood exerts against the walls of your arteries. But what does that difference mean for your health?
A normal resting heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute (BPM) in adults. In general, a low heart rate is a good thing. It means that your heart is working efficiently. A high heart rate, on the other hand, almost always suggests that your heart is overworking, and is a sign of any of the number of health conditions, including cardiovascular disease.
Blood pressure is expressed as two numbers. The systolic pressure (the first number) measures how forcefully the blood flows through the arteries during a heartbeat. The diastolic pressure (the second number) measures the pressure while the heart relaxes, between heartbeats. Normal blood pressure is considered 120/80 mmHg.
Blood pressure is considered “high” (hypertension) if it is above 130/80, with blood pressure above 180/120 being considered severe hypertension. Hypertension is the most dangerous health condition in the United States today, accounting for cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure, as well as metabolic syndrome, which makes a person more likely to develop diabetes. High blood pressure has even been implicated as a cause of dementia.
Low blood pressure, on the other hand, is not considered dangerous unless it is symptomatic. Symptoms of low blood pressure (hypotension) include dizziness, fainting, and blurry vision.
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