Blood Pressure and Heart Rate: What’s the Difference? (and Why Should I Care)

Have you ever gone to the doctors office and the first thing that happens is a nurse comes in and takes two readings, your blood pressure and your heart rate.

In this article, I’m going to explain these two vital health readings and why are they important to you?

Your blood pressure and heart rate are two different measurements that are used to determine a person’s heart health. 

Let’s Talk about Your Heart Rate

Your heart rate is an indication of how hard your body is working. 

Your heart rate is measured by the number of heartbeats per minute.

The higher your heart rate, the more work your body is doing. 

A person’s heart rate varies depending on his or her activity level. 

Athletes often have lower resting heart rates than others simply because their hearts are more efficient.

Their hearts needs fewer beats to deliver the same amount of blood throughout their body.

But heart rates for normal people who have normal activity levels usually beat 60-100 times per minute. 

But it can increase when your body is active.

For example, it can go up to 130–150 beats or higher per minute, during intense physical activity.

That makes sense, because the body needs to pump more oxygen-rich blood around the body.

If a person’s heart rate is too high, it can be a sign of a medical condition. 

You should visit your doctor if your heart rate is consistently above 100 beats per minute or below 60 beats per minute, and you’re not an athlete.

A consistently high heart rate could mean you’re at risk of having heart problems.

A person’s heart rate also varies during the day and night. 

It’s usually lower during sleep, but when it’s time to wake up, it will jump to a higher level because your body needs to work harder to wake up.

Now Let’s Talk about Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is a main indicator of how our body handles stress, and its levels depend on so many factors such as our diet, genetics, gender, age and other things. 

Blood pressure is the measure of the force of blood against the walls of the arteries. 

It’s measured by two numbers.

The systolic or top number and the diastolic or bottom number.

A healthy adult’s normal blood pressure range is 120/80 on average. 

A person is considered to have high blood pressure when their systolic pressure, or top number is 130 and above, and their diastolic pressure is above 80.

When you experience high blood pressure, you may be at risk of heart disease or even stroke.

So that’s one reason doctors check it when you go to their office.

What Is the Connection Between Blood Pressure and Heart Rate?

First of all, as I’ve already mentioned, the difference between blood pressure and heart rate is that blood pressure is the measure of the force of blood against the walls of the arteries, while heart rate is the number of heart beats per minute.

Blood pressure and heart rate are typically taken together, and for a good reason. 

Both vital signs can signal potential heart disease and heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the United States and globally.

Nearly one in every four deaths in the United States is the result of heart problems.

And the worst part is that about one in five heart attacks is silent, meaning that the person had no symptoms and wasn’t even aware of their heart issues.

It’s important to keep your blood pressure and heart rate in balance.

If you have high blood pressure with a low heart rate it means your blood is putting increased pressure on your blood vessels, but your heart’s beating fewer than 60 times per minute. 

Having high blood pressure and a low heart rate puts a strain in your heart.

Think of your heart rate or often called your “pulse ,” as an electrical system.

And think of your blood pressure as plumbing.

Your pulse is controlled by electrical impulses that tell the chambers of the heart to beat evenly.

Your pulse, or electrical system stimulates the pumping of your heart’s plumbing system that controls the blood flow through your body.

When the pipes of the plumbing system are blocked or are narrowed, your heart has to either squeeze harder or beat faster to pump blood.

This results in high blood pressure.

Long-term high blood pressure can potentially lead to having a low heart rate. 

High blood pressure can cause your heart’s tissues to become thicker, which will make your heart beat harder. 

It’s harder for this thickened tissue to conduct electrical impulses.

As a result, your pulse might slow down because it takes longer to transmit electrical impulses, causing a lower heart rate.

Which Vital Sign Is More Important, Blood Pressure or Heart Rate?

This depends on your health. 

For patients with atrial fibrillation, heart rate might be more important to watch, but many other heart diseases depend more on blood pressure.

If you can’t lower your blood pressure with healthy lifestyle changes, your doctor might prescribe blood pressure medications.

In Summary

Your blood pressure and heart rate are two important vital signs that you should continue to monitor.

Having an unbalanced blood pressure and heart rate can put a strain on the heart and lead to serious heart problems.

High blood pressure and a low heart rate sometimes happen when you’re taking medication for high blood pressure, but it can also be a sign of a serious heart problem.

Your doctor can help you to better diagnose whether it’s anything to be concerned about.

Remember, never rely on something you read on the internet as authoritative medical advice.

Always follow your doctor’s recommendations.

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