Blood Pressure – Know Your Numbers

Blood Pressure Know Your NumbersBy Jacquie Eubanks BSN, RN

As your heart beats, its pumping action forces blood against the artery walls.  This force is commonly known as blood pressure.  Your blood pressure is determined by your Systolic and Diastolic measurements.  Systolic refers to the amount of pressure created when your heart is beating and pumping blood.  Diastolic is your blood pressure reading when the heart is resting between beats. 

Ideal blood pressure readings for adults is less than 120 mmHg (Systolic) and less than 80 mmHg (Diastolic).  Measurements above 140 and 90 respectively, indicate a condition known as high blood pressure.

High blood pressure is a chronic condition that affects about 30% of the U.S. population.  Age, race, gender, weight, family health history, stress and unhealthy lifestyle habits are all considered risk factors for developing HBP. 

Knowing your blood pressure numbers is critical as HBP can have little or no obvious symptoms.  However, left unmanaged, HBP can seriously damage your heart and blood vessels leading to heart attack, stroke, kidney failure and blindness. 

Lifestyle habits that can help prevent and control high blood pressure include:

  • Healthy diet.  Consume heart healthy foods low in fat, cholesterol and sodium.  Concentrate on fresh fruits, veggies, whole grains, low sodium and fat free foods.  Reduce your sugar intake by avoiding sweets and sugary drinks.
  • Limit alcoholic drinks.  Too much alcohol is known to raise blood pressure.  Try not to exceed 1 drink daily for women and two for men. 
  • Exercise.  Routine physical activity has many health benefits including lowering blood pressure.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.  If you are overweight, reducing that weight can lower your risk of health issues relative to blood pressure.  To determine if you are overweight, take a look at your body mass index or BMI.  Your BMI is a measurement of your weight in relation to your height that estimates your total body fat.  The National Institute of Health recommends a BMI of 25 or less.  To determine your BMI, you can use this online calculator:
  • Stop smoking.  Smoking damages blood vessels, raises your risk for high blood pressure and presents a myriad of other health issues.  Quitting smoking is the single best thing you can do to reduce your overall health risks. 
  • Manage stress.  Stress itself is a risk factor for high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.  Chronic stress causes unhealthy elevation of stress related hormones such as adrenalin and cortisol.  Setting aside some time each day for rest and relaxation of both mind and body is necessary for good health, wellness and disease prevention. 

Adding supplements to your healthy diet and lifestyle can help lower blood pressure and prevent high blood pressure from developing. 

  • Potassium – Helps balance the amount of sodium in your bloodstream.
  • Calcium – For high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
  • Magnesium – For diseases of the heart and blood vessels, high blood pressure, high levels of LDL cholesterol and low levels of HDL cholesterol. 
  • Omega 3 fatty acids – EPA and DHA are known to lower the risk of heart disease and stroke, lower triglycerides and lower blood pressure. 
  • Garlic –  For high blood pressure, high cholesterol and coronary heart disease. 
  • Vitamin D – Thought to affect a kidney enzyme that influences blood pressure. 
  • Alpha-linolenic acid – ALA is used to lower blood pressure and cholesterol and for prevention and treatment of diseases of the heart and blood vessels. 
  • Coenzyme Q10 –  For  heart and blood vessel conditions and high blood pressure. 

High blood pressure is a disease that needs to be managed and controlled for your lifetime.  Lifestyle changes, medications and ongoing medical care can treat, but not cure high blood pressure.  Healthy lifestyle habits can prevent or delay the onset and help to avoid related health problems.  Maintaining optimum blood pressure levels can lead to a longer, healthier and more active life. 

As with any supplement, if you are pregnant, nursing, taking medications or have a medical condition, consult your healthcare provider. 

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