High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a common condition that affects nearly half of all adults in the US.
Also known as hypertension or HBP, high blood pressure occurs when the force of the blood flowing through your arteries is too high over a consistent period of time.
As a result, the blood vessels become damaged, and bad cholesterol begins to accumulate along with tears in your artery walls, leading to more serious health issues like a heart attack, stroke, heart failure, and more.
What is Normal Blood Pressure?
There are two components to a BP measurement.
They are your systolic and diastolic blood pressure.
Your systolic BP measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats. A normal systolic reading is less than 120 mmHg.
Your diastolic BP measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart is resting in between beats. A normal diastolic reading is less than 80 mmHg.
Together, a normal blood pressure reading is written as 120/80 mmHg (systolic over diastolic).
What is Considered High Blood Pressure?
The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology define hypertension as a reading of 130/80 and higher for all adults.
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) Stage 1: 130-139 mmHg Systolic or 80-89 mmHg Diastolic.
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension) Stage 2: Over 140 mmHg Systolic or over 90 mmHg Diastolic.
Hypertensive Crisis: Over 180 mmHg Systolic or over 120 mmHg Diastolic.
If your BP rises into the hypertensive crisis category, you should contact a doctor immediately.
What Causes High Blood Pressure?
Generally, there is no single direct cause of HBP.
It is a cumulative effect of many factors that develop and compound over a long period of time.
However, several factors play a role, including:
- Older age
- Alcohol consumption
- Being Overweight or Obese
High Blood Pressure Symptoms
Generally, high blood pressure does not have any symptoms.
That is one of the reasons many refer to it as a “silent killer.”
As a result, it is important to get your blood pressure checked regularly.
In fact, it is recommended that adults with normal BP get checked every year. However, if you have been diagnosed with hypertension, you may want to monitor your condition more frequently.
In extreme cases (hypertensive crisis), severe headaches, dizziness, and nosebleeds may present as symptoms, but it is extremely rare.
If you start to display any of these symptoms, you should contact a doctor immediately.
Lower Blood Pressure With These 3 Tips
Finding out you have high blood pressure can be scary.
However, with a few lifestyle changes, you can lower your BP and significantly reduce your risk of heart disease.
Here are 3 simple tips to get you started.
Tip 1: Follow DASH
One of the quickest and most effective ways to start lowering your BP is to change your diet.
But knowing what changes to make can be difficult.
The DASH eating plan (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) can help.
The research-backed eating plan requires no special foods and focuses on daily/weekly nutritional goals to help create a heart-healthy eating style.
The DASH plan promotes:
- Eating vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
- Including fat-free or low fat dairy products, fish, poultry, beans, nuts, and vegetable oils.
- Limiting intake of processed foods and those that are high in saturated fat.
- Limiting beverages and sweets that are high in sugar.
To learn more about the DASH eating plan, visit the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s website.
Tip 2: Make It a Priority to Exercise Regularly
Another highly effective way to lower your BP is to exercise regularly.
Exercise helps you manage your weight, lower stress levels, and strengthen your heart, as well as numerous other health benefits.
You can walk, bike, swim, dance, or do chores around your home. The form of exercise doesn’t matter as much as being consistent.
Shoot for 30 minutes a day, and be sure to talk to your doctor about developing an exercise program that fits your individual needs.
Tip 3: Limit Your Sodium Intake
Despite the CDC recommendation of less than 2,300 mg of sodium, the average American consumes upward of 3,400 mg of sodium per day!
But here are some ideas to help you out:
- Check food labels and try to find low sodium alternatives.
- Avoid using extra salt on your food and instead use herbs and spices to add flavor.
- Purchase fresh meat opposed to salted, smoked, or other kinds of processed meat.
These simple changes will help you drastically decrease your sodium intake and, in turn, lower your blood pressure.
Lifestyle Changes to Lower Blood Pressure
Making lifestyle changes to lower your BP is hard.
However, it is achievable with conscious and consistent effort.
Work with friends and family to implement these changes over time and live a better, more healthy lifestyle.
And as always, if you have any questions, speak with a licensed healthcare professional.
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