Do you know your blood pressure numbers? Dr. Michael Bloch explains how maintaining a healthy blood pressure is important for maintaining quality of life and increasing longevity.
By Michael Bloch, MD, Renown Institute for Heart and Vascular Health
High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects 85 million Americans — that’s one in three. And left untreated, it can lead to serious and sometimes life-threatening health concerns such as vision loss, kidney disease, heart failure and heart attack and stroke. But what exactly is blood pressure, what makes it go up and why is that increase in pressure so dangerous?
All About Blood Pressure
Let’s start with blood pressure. In order to function properly, your body requires a continual supply of oxygenated blood, which is transported to organs and tissues via blood vessels called arteries. Your beating heart produces the force or pressure your blood vessels require to move blood. This is what’s known as blood pressure.
Your blood pressure numbers reflect two forces at work — the pressure created as blood is pumped throughout the body (systolic) and the pressure when your heart is at rest in between beats (diastolic). A normal, healthy blood pressure reading shows a systolic level at 120 or below over a diastolic level of 80 or less: 120/80.
An increase in blood pressure occurs slowly over time, straining the circulatory system and forcing the heart, blood vessels and tissues to work harder. This friction damages blood vessel walls and stimulates plaque buildup from LDL cholesterol, setting the stage for atherosclerosis. As more and more plaque builds up, your blood vessels narrow, further raising blood pressure, damaging the circulatory system, and increasing your risk of serious health conditions.
The ‘Silent Killer’
High blood pressure is known as a “silent killer,” as the vast majority of people with high blood pressure present no symptoms. In fact, one in six of those affected don’t even know they have the condition. That’s why it’s so important to know your numbers. The only way to find out if you have high blood pressure is to have it measured, either by a health professional or using a home blood pressure monitor.
If your numbers are high, there are things you can do to help lower it — high blood pressure is treatable, but not curable. You can manage high blood pressure with medications and lifestyle changes that include:
- Adhering to the Mediterranean diet
- Decreasing sodium intake
- Avoiding excessive alcohol consumption
- Increasing exercise and activity levels
- Losing weight
Prevention and Genetics
Even better? High blood pressure doesn’t just happen. You can prevent the condition altogether. How? Know your numbers and know your risk. Look at your family medical history. Genetics certainly increases the risk of high blood pressure, but those same lifestyle choices that can improve poor blood pressure can also prevent you from developing it in the first place. So if your numbers are good, keep them that way — eat well, move your body, maintain a healthy weight, and consume alcohol in moderation.
Improve your heart health and quality of life with a healthy blood pressure. Learn more about living a heart-healthy lifestyle visiting the Heart Health section at BestMedicineNews.org.