When checking your blood pressure, a doctor or nurse is measuring the amount of pressure in your blood vessels and heart by when it rests between beats. This routine test can say a lot about your heart health and can help determine if there are any signs of a potential problem.
WHAT IS HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE (HBP)?
High blood pressure, also referred to as HBP or hypertension, is when your blood pressure is consistency too high. Meaning, the force of the blood that flows through the blood vessels has too much pressure.
In order for your body to function properly, your tissues and organs require oxygenated blood that the circulatory system delivers throughout the body. Every time your heart beats, it creates pressure that pushes blood though your arteries, veins, and capillaries. This pumping pressure results in two forces, systolic and diastolic pressure, which are represented by the numbers to read your blood pressure.
The problems caused by high blood pressure starts in your arteries and heart. The heart and blood vessels have to increase their workload and it becomes less efficient for your vessels to handle the pressure.
WHATS A NORMAL BP?
A ‘normal’ blood pressure reading will vary depending on various factors from health history to one’s activity level. An overview of blood pressure terminology and conditions are provided in the following:
(top number) – this is the first force that occurs as blood pumps out of the heart and into the arteries to circulate through your body.
Diastolic (bottom number) – the second force occurs as the heart rests between heart beats.
Normal BP ranges
• less than 120-80 mm Hg.
• readings consistently range from 120-129 systolic and less than 80 mm Hg diastolic.
Hypertension (stage 1)
• blood pressure rages from 130-139 systolic or 80-89 mm Hg diastolic. Lifestyle changes could change these readings before it worsens.
Hypertension (stage 2)
• blood pressure ranges at 140/90 mm Hg or higher. This is high BP and a combination of lifestyle changes along with meds may be considered.
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOUR BP IS HIGH?
Having high blood pressure is a serious condition that takes a toll on your vital organs. If you have high blood pressure, there is a ‘higher pressure’ created inside your blood vessels that places extra strain on your heart. This strain can raise the risk of a heart attack or stroke and could be fatal. (Sorry to scare you, but this is serious stuff!)
Over time, your arteries could narrow and reduce blood flow which causes other organs to be affected such as lack of brain function, eyesight, kidney failure, personality changes, and sexual dysfunction. These effects could cause other long-term problems if not managed correctly.
CAUSES OF HIGH BP
There may not be any one sign for the cause of high blood pressure. It is not exactly known what causes someone’s blood pressure to rise, however, it is known that poor lifestyle habits could contribute to its development. You may be at higher risk due to:
• A diet high in salt, fat, &/or cholesterol
• A diet lacking fresh vegetables & fruits
• Excess alcohol
• Lack of physical activity
There are other increased risk factors that are not in your control. These include:
• Ethnic origin
• Family history
• Other medicines can trigger HBP
SIGNS OF HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
A frightening fact is that most people who have high blood pressure do not have obvious symptoms but it could be quietly causing damage internally that can threaten your health. There may be signs that go undetected because they seem ‘normal’. However, if you feel a pounding pressure in the head or chest or you feel lightheaded or dizzy, this may be a signal to get medical help. Paying attention to how you feel and recognizing signs could save your life.
The best way to control high blood pressure is by getting your body in motion. Physical activity also helps manage your weight, reduces stress levels, and strengthens your heart. Any type of physical activity is beneficial when done regularly and at a pace you can manage.
Find activities you enjoy. If nature is calling you, exercise outdoors by taking a brisk walk, hike, or bike ride while listening to music or a podcast. Perhaps you like to be social by taking a fitness class or engage in a team sport. And, if you have the Total Gym, use it! It’s an excellent way to combined cardio and strength exercises in an efficient and effective way in the comfort of your own home.
Regardless of the activities you choose, aim to be in motion for 30 minutes most days of the week. It’s not about how much, it’s about moving consistently and creating a healthy habit. Start slowly and gradually progress when your body feels ready. Mix up your activity sessions by adding combinations of cardio, strength, and flexibility to help you stay interested and motivated for heart-healthy fitness goals.
High blood pressure is a serious topic that can be prevented or treated by adapting to healthier daily habits.
Stay tuned for more information (part 2 blog) on heart disease and ways to prevent and detect this condition.