Blood pressure is one of the primary meaurements for health assessment. Although it has no symptoms of its own, high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart attack, stroke, aneurysms and kidney failure.
What are the numbers?
You most often will see blood pressure numbers written with the systolic number above or before the diastolic number, such as 120/80 mmHg. (The mmHg is millimeters of mercury—the units used to measure blood pressure.) In general, someone has high blood pressure if several measurements of blood pressure show readings of 140 systolic or 90 diastolic or higher.
Systolic blood pressure corresponds to the pressure generated by your heart as it pushes the blood through the blood vessels. Most of the resistance to blood flow (75%) comes from an intermediate blood vessel called an arteriole. Arterioles are very sensitive to adrenaline. Stress produces adrenaline and stress alone is a common cause of high blood pressure where only the top number is too high.
The bottom number is the diastolic blood pressure. It represents the pressure exerted upon the heart when it is at rest, drawing in blood to pump out to the rest of the body. Toxins in the bloodstream such as fat, sugar, salt, alcohol and nicotine may cause high diastolic blood pressure. The kidneys and lungs are organs that excrete toxins from your body. High levels of toxins elevate diastolic blood pressure and place stress on these delicate organs. This may cause organ failure.
Where both numbers are too high, inflammation in the bloodstream is a common cause. Hardening of the arteries is a common reason why both systolic and diastolic numbers are too high.
Blood pressure doesn’t stay the same all the time. It lowers as you sleep and rises when you wake up. Blood pressure also rises when you’re excited, nervous, or active. If your numbers stay above normal most of the time, you’re at risk for health problems.
Here are some of the factors that contribute to high blood pressure:
- age (blood pressure usually increases with age)
- excessive alcohol consumption
- lack of exercise
- sleep apnea
What should you do?
High blood pressure is a medical emergency. Get medical help immediately.
Once your type of high blood pressure has been diagnosed, there are several things you may do to help bring it under control. Blood pressure tends to rise with age. Following a healthy lifestyle helps some people delay or prevent this rise in blood pressure.
- control alcohol intake (no more than 2 drinks per day to a maximum of 9 per week for women, or 14 per week for men)
- cut down on your salt consumption
- eat more fruits, vegetables, grains, and fibre
- get regular physical activity – at least 150 minutes (2 and a half hours) of physical activity per week in sessions of at least 10 minutes
- lose weight
- stop smoking
Take charge of your health and enjoy life!