Blood Pressure is the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your arteries every time your heart pumps. Each pump creates a wave that you feel as your pulse. But this is not the same as blood pressure. The pressure against your arteries is greater when the heart pumps than it is between pumps. Both are measured because both are important. The blood the heart pumps out is oxygenated and full of nutrients for your body.
How Is It Measured?
Blood Pressure is measured at it’s highest and lowest points. The highest is when the heart pumps and is called the systolic blood pressure (pronounced sis-tall-ic). This is the top number or the largest number in a blood pressure reading. The lowest blood pressure is when your heart relaxes between pumps and the pressure drops. This is called diastolic blood pressure (pronounced die-as-tolic). This is the bottom number in your blood pressure reading.
A reading is normally stated as 120/80 or 120 over 80. A complete reading would show as 120 mm Hg / 80 mm Hg, (mm is for millimetres, and Hg is the symbol of mercury in the Periodic Table of Elements.
High Blood Pressure
Any elevation in either number can put you in a higher risk category. Low risk is 120/80, medium risk is currently considered 121-139/80-89 with high risk at 140+/90.
High blood pressure can damage blood vessels anywhere in your body. It can cause damage to the lining of arteries. It can lead to atherosclerosis, or narrowing of the arteries. This can result in risks of:
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- Kidney failure
- Peripheral vascular disease
- Eye damage
There are risk factors we cannot do anything about such as:
- Family history
What Can You Do About It?
In the months immediately before, and after I had open heart surgery on September 15, 2016 I had been exposed to many people experiencing various heart issues. See my history with Open Heart Surgery. Most of these people had very serious and life ending issues. In a couple months I will be 72 years old and I am constantly reading and hearing about people dying from these problems and most of them are younger than me.
There are choices you can make to reduce or to keep your blood pressure in a healthy range.
- I check it regularly and keep a record. After my surgery I bought a monitor and I take it almost daily, often twice daily, and I record it on a spreadsheet for comparison purposes. I record the time of day and whether or not it followed an exercise workout. If you cannot afford a monitor find a local drug store that has one you can use. They are almost always free.
- Get your body to a healthy weight. If you are overweight, losing a little can make a big impact on your blood pressure.
- Start eating better. Preferably a plant based approach, fat reduced diet.
- Reduce the amount of salt you consume. Don’t throw out your salt shaker because what you eat from that source in minor. It’s the salt in processed foods that is the problem.
- Learn something about what healthy food really is. See Nutrition Fundamentals.
- Get into a regular physical activity program.
- Because smoking and alcohol are so bad for you. quitting smoking and reducing alcohol will have a very positive impact.
- Check into meditation as a way to manage stress.