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If you check your blood pressure, you may wonder when an abnormal reading means you should call your doctor. This information can help you understand what your blood pressure numbers mean and when you need to call for help.
Your blood pressure consists of two numbers: systolic and diastolic. Someone with a systolic pressure of 117 and a diastolic pressure of 78 has a blood pressure of 117/78, or "117 over 78."
Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80 ("120 over 80").
In general, the lower your blood pressure, the better. A blood pressure reading of less than 90/60 is normal as long as you feel okay.
It's normal for blood pressure to go up and down throughout the day. Things like exercise, stress, and sleeping can affect your blood pressure. Some medicines can cause a spike in blood pressure, including certain asthma medicines and cold remedies.
A low blood pressure reading can be caused by many things, including some medicines, a severe allergic reaction, or an infection. Another cause is dehydration, which is when your body loses too much fluid.
One high or low blood pressure reading by itself may not mean you need to call for help. If you take your blood pressure and it is out of the normal range, wait a few minutes and take it again. If it's still high or low, use the following guidance.
Call 911 anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if:
Call your doctor now or seek immediate
medical care if:
Call a doctor if:
Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection,
Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure (2003). Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure JNC Express
(NIH Publication No. 03–5233). Bethesda, MD: U.S. Department of Health and
August 10, 2012
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.
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