May is National Blood Pressure month, and in the spirit of raising awareness for what is considered one of the leading causes of death in our society, we're here to explain what blood pressure is, what causes high blood pressure, and how to combat the severe health risks associated with high blood pressure.
What is Blood Pressure?
The easiest way to define blood pressure is by noting that it's the force that pushes blood throughout our bodies via our circulatory system. The force is created by our hearts expelling blood when it contracts during each heartbeat, and then gradually traveling through the smaller branches of arteries before returning. The pressure difference created by the heart and corresponding arteries is what allows blood to pump throughout our bodies efficiently, and equals out to your overall blood pressure.
Measuring Blood Pressure
Anyone who has ever been to a doctor's appointment before is more than likely familiar with having their blood pressure checked via the blood pressure "cuff" that is fastened around the upper arm of the patient and then tightened. Doing so allows a medical professional to accurately identify whether your levels are within a normal range or not. Your blood pressure reading will consist of both a systolic number and a diastolic number. Systolic pressure is the first number and the highest, and measures the contractions of the heart, while the diastolic pressure measures the pressure inside of the arteries during the pause between heartbeats. Blood pressure levels fluctuate depending on age, health, stress, and several other factors over time, so the blood pressure numbers that are suitable for you will have to be determined by your doctor. Recently, however, it has been advised that adults that are aged 60 or above should attempt to aim for levels that are less than 150/90 mmHg.
The Consequences of High Blood Pressure
If left unchecked, blood pressure can increase to greatly unhealthy levels, and several dangerous consequences can occur. High blood pressure often causes blood clots, which result in such health issues as heart attacks or strokes due to the blocked arteries preventing blood flow from reaching the heart and the brain. High blood pressure can also cause health problems such as kidney disease, sexual dysfunction, angina (chest pain), and peripheral artery disease.
Combating High Blood Pressure
While the risks associated with high blood pressure are certainly a cause for concern, there are many ways to keep your levels under control and your health in a positive state. Keeping your body weight at a suitable and healthy range for your height and age is a large factor, as is ensuring that you practice a diet that is rich in produce and low-fat protein. Regularly monitor your sodium intake levels to keep them as low as possible, and be aware of how much alcohol you consume on a regular basis. Be sure to also engage in regular exercise for at least 30 minutes every day, as even a simple walk around the block every evening is enough to drastically reduce your overall risk levels.
With a proactive mindset and appropriate lifestyle changes, it's fairly painless to keep your blood pressure in check and within safe levels. If you have further questions about how to lower or maintain your blood pressure, feel free to contact us!