What is blood pressure? Blood pressure is simply the force of blood against the walls of our arteries. When blood pressure stays elevated over time, it’s called high blood pressure also known as hypertension.
Hypertension is a serious condition, and it’s dangerous because it makes the heart work too hard in pumping blood to the rest of the body. This can result in a host of conditions, such as heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and even blindness.
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Your blood pressure is highest when your heart beats, i.e. when it is pumping blood. This is known as systolic pressure. When the heart is at rest (between beats) your blood pressure is lower. This is known as diastolic pressure.
Blood pressure is always given in these two numbers using millimeters of mercury as the method of measurement. The systolic measurement is on top, and the diastolic is on the bottom (e.g. 120/80 mmHg).
See the table below for blood pressure ranges for adults 18 years and older:
|Optimal||Less than 120||Less than 80|
|Pre-hypertension||120 – 139||80 – 89|
|Hypertension||140 and above||90 and above|
What causes high blood pressure?
The causes of high blood pressure actually vary and may include narrowing of the arteries, e.g. from cholesterol (fat) deposition and other medical problems. Most of the time, however, the cause is unknown. While high blood pressure usually cannot be cured, it can mostly be prevented and controlled.
Let’s take a look at some conditions or behaviors that increase the chances of developing hypertension:
• High blood pressure
• Abnormal cholesterol
• Family history of early heart disease
• Age (55 or older for men; 65 or older for women)
• Tobacco use
• Being overweight
• Physical inactivity
When you have more than one of these risk factors, your risk of developing heart disease greatly multiplies.
How can you control your blood pressure?
Unfortunately, you cannot tell if you have high blood pressure because there are no symptoms. What’s worse is that most won’t know that they have it until the situation gets really dangerous, and once it develops, hypertension lasts a lifetime.
Here a few tips to help prevent and control high blood pressure:
- Be physically active. This helps lower high blood pressure immensely, and the good news is that the exercises don’t have to be overly strenuous. Examples of such activities include brisk walking, jogging, swimming, cycling, and even running.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Losing extra weight is very important in reducing high blood pressure. Losing as little as 10 pounds can reduce blood pressure in many overweight people. It also enhances the anti-hypertensive effects of medication and helps to reduce the risk of other conditions, such as high cholesterol levels and diabetes.
- Choose foods low in salt (sodium). Some people can reduce their blood pressure by cutting back on salt in all forms. Pay attention to how much of it exists in natural foods, while cooking, at the table, and in processed and canned foods.
- Drink alcohol in moderation and cut down (completely) on cigarettes. Taking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure. Too much is more than two drinks of beer, wine, and/or spirits every day. Smoking is a no-no if you want to live with a healthy blood pressure.
- Follow a healthy eating plan. Increase your servings of fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products, while decreasing sodium and saturated fats. There’s a simple diet plan that you can follow with the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. The DASH diet is rich in magnesium (found in nuts, soybeans, seafood, and whole grains), potassium (found in avocados, sweet potatoes, spinach, oranges, and bananas), and calcium (found in yogurt, milk, cheese and almonds), as well as protein and fiber. This diet plan is a very good way to control blood pressure.
- Take prescribed drugs as directed. Do not miss, skip or even alter your prescriptions and always visit your doctor regularly for routine checks and follow-ups, especially if you are already diagnosed with hypertension.
Following the steps above will help you prevent and control high blood pressure. They aren’t so bad, are they? So, what are you waiting for? Get that heart rocking to a good beat today.