High blood pressure is often called the silent killer. Because there are no definitive reasons to explain why someone has it, a person can have it for years without knowing it. There are a number of contributing factors to elevated blood pressure numbers and several things you can do to try to lower it or check it. However, you can do all of the right things, and still have hypertension. Left unchecked it can damage your eyes and kidneys, cause a stroke or heart attack and even death. Understanding what is the best blood pressure for you and how to take care of yourself, is paramount in living a long and healthy life.
What is blood pressure?
When you have had your pressure in your veins checked by a nurse or doctor, they generally tell you the result in the form of two numbers. For instance they may say “120 over 80”. Written down it looks like 120/80. The top number or systolic, measures the pressure in your veins when the heart is pumping blood into your body. The bottom number is the diastolic (think D for down) that measures the pressure in between beats, when the heart is at rest. When you are young and your veins are clear and elastic, your blood pressure is usually lower. As we age, our veins begin to stiffen and thicken, making the veins less elastic and causing the heart to increase the pressure.
What should my numbers look like at blood pressure charts?
120/80 is the ideal blood pressure reading for most over the age of 20. The systolic number (top) ideally should be between 90 and 120. The diastolic (down) number should be between 60 and 80. Numbers that are higher for either number you may require a conversation with your physician. Some websites have blood pressure charts that are easy to read and understand. The American Heart Association has a blood pressure calculator online, that helps to determine your risks from hypertension.
Why is high blood pressure dangerous?
Left unchecked, hypertension can damage the small vessels in your eyes, can also cause kidney disease and is believed to be responsible for some forms of dementia. In the brain, if your blood pressure is too high, you can have a stroke that can leave you disabled or kill you. High pressure in your veins also damages your heart, leading to possible heart attacks and death. High blood pressure should never be dismissed. If you ignore it, it will not go away, but your life just might.
What are the causes of high blood pressure?
For some people, there are no easily defined causes. Being overweight, inactive and eating a diet high in fat and sodium can be a part of the reason people develop hypertension, but not everyone with high blood pressure does these things. Some diseases like diabetes and living with constant stress can raise your it, as well as being hereditary. But again, just because your father had high blood pressure, you are a diabetic or lead a stressful life, it does not necessarily mean you will develop diabetes. Many women develop it when they are pregnant because of the added weight and demands placed on the blood supply. If you are taking HRT Hormone Replacement Therapy during menopause, some forms of oestrogen can also raise it.
Can I avoid hypertension, and if I have been diagnosed with it, what can I do to lower it?
First of all, monitoring your blood pressure regularly is very important to track changes. Living an active lifestyle with 30 to 60 minutes of active movement everyday not only helps to keep your blood pressure down, but it improves your body’s overall health. Eat a diet that is low in fat and sodium by restricting fried and salted foods, some soda beverages and processed foods. The average American diet is loaded with salt well above the recommended levels. Simply reducing your salt intake and reading labels to avoid high sodium content, you can lower your blood pressure significantly. Fatty and fried foods raise your cholesterol and that in turn thickens your blood vessel walls, making them less flexible and over time raising your blood pressure. Finally, if you have increased your exercise and cleaned up your diet but your tension is still high or climbing, your doctor may put you on blood pressure medication to reduce it.
What to do if you have been diagnosed with hypertension?
Be aware of what your numbers are and what your blood pressure norms should be. Exercise, eat a low sodium and low fat diet. Check pressure daily, and keep track of your daily blood pressure readings. If you have a computer there are online blood pressure log that you can enter in your numbers and your medications daily. They are printable and you can take them with you the next time you see your doctor. There are also printable booklets that you can fill out without a computer.
Hypertension does not present symptoms until it is too late. When you visit with your doctor discuss your blood pressure and potential risk factors with them. Even when you do everything right you may not be able to avoid it, when that happens medication can bring it down. High Blood Pressure should not be ignored.