Meigs Health Matters… Understanding blood pressure

Meigs Health Matters - By Marc Barr

senior portraits, professional portrait

senior portraits, professional portrait

As your heart beats, it pumps blood throughout the body. The blood serves as a transport vessel as it carries oxygen, nutrients and medications to areas of demand. The blood also transports carbon dioxide and waste products to areas of excretion.

The amount of pressure the blood exerts onto the walls of the vessels is called blood pressure. Blood pressure typically is represented with two numbers, for example, you may see a blood pressure reading of 120/80 mmHg in humans. A fun fact is that a giraffe blood pressure can reach 300/180mmHg, a pressure needed to pump blood all the way from the heart to the brain.

Blood pressure fluctuates throughout the day as you change body position, activity levels and stress levels. To ensure an accurate measurement, it is important to be in a seated position for 5 minutes prior to a blood pressure check and note any caffeine or tobacco products consumed that day. A blood pressure check is a very quick, non-invasive procedure making it a great tool for overall health screening.

Abnormal blood pressure will be a red flag to health care providers. If blood pressure is too low (hypotension) it can increase the risk for loss of consciousness. If blood pressure is too high (hypertension) it can put one at higher risk for heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and many other conditions.

It is important to note that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Blood pressure is a simple screening tool that can be used to assess one’s heart health. Blood pressure screenings are available at no cost and on a walk-in basis at the Meigs County Health Department.

To see a full list of the services provided to the public, please visit our website at

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Meigs Health Matters

By Marc Barr

Marc Barr, M.S., is the Meigs County Health Commissioner.

Marc Barr, M.S., is the Meigs County Health Commissioner.