While blood pressure and pulse (or heart rate) are important ways to assess your cardiovascular health, they are quite different in what they actually measure.
But are they related?
In simple terms, blood pressure is the force of the blood moving through the blood vessels, whereas heart rate or pulse is the number of times your heart beats per minute.1
The one thing they do have in common is that there are normal ranges to try and aim for, and too big a variation from that range might indicate an issue. Ideally, your blood pressure should be around 120/80.2 For an explanation of what those numbers mean, check out this article. The resting heart rate for most of us is usually between 60 and 100 beats per minute (bpm), but a physically fit person might have a resting rate of 40 bpm.3 In contrast, studies have shown that a higher resting heart rate is associated with lower physical fitness higher blood pressure and body weight.3
Heart rate rises when you exercise so that more blood (and therefore oxygen) can be delivered to the muscles to be used as ‘fuel’.1 But a rise in heart rate doesn’t necessarily increase your blood pressure at the same rate. A healthy cardiovascular system will automatically dilate (widen the diameter) of blood vessels to allow the ‘extra’ blood through while maintaining blood pressure in a safe range.1
Measuring your heart rate can be as simple as taking your pulse, either by placing two fingers on your wrist (on the thumb side) or on your neck, just under your jaw, beside your windpipe. Or there are a number of heart rate monitors and wearable devices that will perform the measurement automatically as well as devices that can spot check your heart rate such as a pulse oximeter.^
Measuring blood pressure requires more sophisticated devices and can be very useful to monitor your cardiovascular health.
It can help your doctor diagnose high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. And if you’ve already been diagnosed, self-monitoring can help get your blood pressure (BP) under control.4
Good quality, home blood pressure monitors are accurate, very easy to use, and above all, quite affordable for those who need to monitor their BP. Many are also battery operated and portable, so you can take the reading where and when you are comfortable – and you can take it with you on holidays or weekends away.
Check out the very affordable and accurate Omron Blood Pressure monitors here.*
In summary, your blood pressure and pulse or heart rate are great indicators of what’s happening in your cardiovascular system and an equally great way of measuring your level of fitness (and improvements after exercise).
^Always read the label and follow the directions for use. Consult your health professional to evaluate the readings.
*Always read the label and follow the directions for use. For people with high blood pressure. Consult your doctor to evaluate the readings. Check your device periodically for accuracy.