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Do the two go hand in hand?


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Blood pressure and heart rate go hand in hand (or arm in cuff) in most peoples minds. After all,
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these two vital signs are measured together at the doctors office.
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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. Below, Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Michael Faulx, MD, explains
some key differences and busts some common myths along the way.

1. Blood pressure and heart rate are always linked


False: It is true that blood pressure and heart rate often rise and fall together, Dr. Faulx says.
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 doesnt automatically mean your blood pressure will rise
or vice versa. When the two are disconnected, you may be looking at a specific problem, Dr.
Faulx says. 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.

2. Theres one normal for blood pressure and heart rate


False: There are guidelines, but whats 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
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pressure as your heart relaxes). For your resting heart rate, the target is between 60 and 100
beats per minute. But keep in mind, Both heart rate and blood pressure are a customized fit,
Dr. Faulx says. You need to work with your doctor to establish a baseline thats normal for you.
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Are you dragging and feeling weak? The numbers on their own dont tell the story; its the
numbers paired with how you are feeling and what symptoms you may have.

3. Going low always indicates a problem


False: Whats 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 the 40s. It can actually
be a badge, a sign of being in really good shape, Dr. Faulx notes.
Low blood pressure can be a bit trickier, especially in older patients and those with heart disease.
If youre in danger from low blood pressure, your body will tell you. Its really about how you
feel, Dr. Faulx says. Are you dragging and feeling weak? The numbers on their own dont tell
the story; its the numbers paired with how you are feeling and what symptoms you may have.

4. High blood pressure is more dangerous than high heart


rate
True: Again, normal varies. But Dr. Faulx says there is enough clinical evidence to suggest that
when blood pressure is even a little over your typical average over time, the risk for heart disease
and stroke go up. The physical effects of high blood pressure take their toll on your blood vessels.
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Elevated heart rate can be a sign of danger, too, but the cause-effect relationship is not so clear.
Studies show that people who run a faster heart rate are more likely to have cardiac problems
and premature cardiac death, Dr. Faulx says. But were not sure whether that is the cause of
the problem or just a sign of whats going on.
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5. When you measure matters


True: To measure your resting heart rate and blood pressure, pick a time when youre feeling
relaxed, Dr. Faulx advises. Randomly sampling both measures throughout the day can also help
you reach an average. Dont take your readings right after exercising unless youre trying to
establish a baseline for active blood pressure and heart rate.
Which measure is more important depends on your health, too. For patients with atrial
fibrillation, heart rate might be more important to watch, but many other heart diseases depend
more on blood pressure. To be safe, measure both.
Almost all automated kits you buy at a drugstore are going to give you blood pressure and pulse
on one readout, Dr. Faulx says. Its convenient and theres really no reason not to stay on top
of both.

February 24, 2014 / By Heart and Vascular Team


Tags: atrial fibrillation, blood pressure, heart rate, myths, pulse
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Heart and Vascular Team

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