High blood pressure can lead to serious health problems including stroke, heart attack, cardiovascular disease and even death. Knowing about high blood pressure, how you can control it and what the numbers mean can go a long way to helping you live a long and healthy life.
When your blood pressure is measured, you will see two numbers on the readout. The upper number, or systolic number, is the reading in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) of the pressure against the artery walls when your heart is beating.
The lower number, or diastolic number, is the measurement of pressure against the artery walls when the heart is at rest. In general, the two numbers should be within a normal range. However, due to circumstances in your life, they may elevate from time to time.
Understanding the Numbers
A healthy range for blood pressure is any systolic number at or below 120 and a diastolic number at or below 80. Note that both numbers must be at or below their respective range to be normal.
If either number (not both) is elevated, you may have an issue with high blood pressure. In general, the systolic number is the one most often used to diagnose high blood pressure. If the systolic number at or below 130 and above 120, you would be classed in the pre-hypertension zone. This is a warning zone that you can suffer from high blood pressure without changing your lifestyle.
There are 3 stages of hypertension: Stage 1, Stage 2 and Hypertension crisis. If the systolic number reaches 140 to 159, or the diastolic number reaches 90 to 99, you would fall into the Stage 1 range.
Stage two ranges for systolic numbers are 160 and higher. The diastolic number would be 100 or greater. In this range, you are at risk for hypertension crisis, which can result in a stroke or cardiac arrest.
Hypertension Crisis is any number in the systolic range above 180 or the diastolic range above 110. According to the American Heart Association: “If your blood pressure is higher than 180/110 mm Hg and you are NOT experiencing symptoms such as chest pain, shortness of breath, back pain, numbness/weakness, changes in vision or difficulty speaking, wait about five minutes and retake it. If the reading is still at or above that level, you should CALL 9-1-1 and get help immediately.”
Ways to Reduce Your Risk
Just by decreasing the sodium intake can reduce your blood pressure by up to 8 mm Hg. The daily limit you should strive for is between 1.5 and 2.3 grams per day. As a guide, one level teaspoon of salt is 2.3 grams.
To reduce your intake always read labels and try not to add salt to your food. Sodium occurs in low levels naturally, so reducing the number of processed foods will greatly decrease your intake.
While it is unclear of the long term effects of caffeine on blood pressure, it is always better to play it safe.
For people who rarely drink caffeinated beverages, the caffeine can raise the blood pressure up to 10 mm Hg. However, studies have shown no real effect on blood pressure for habitual drinkers.
The only way to know for certain it to monitor your blood pressure and test it within 30 minutes of drinking caffeine. If it raises 5 to 10 mm Hg, you may be sensitive to the blood pressure effects of caffeine.
Diet is important when monitoring and maintaining blood pressure. You should strive to eat fruits and vegetables along with whole grains and low-fat dairy. You should also minimize saturated fats and cholesterol.
Limiting alcohol to one drink per day or less is also ideal. While alcohol is known to reduce blood pressure; having more than 1 drink per day can raise your blood pressure.
Along with a healthy diet, exercise is a great way to reduce your blood pressure. You should always s consult a doctor before beginning any exercise regimen; however, walking and jogging are great ways to keep your blood pressure numbers down.
Swimming and cycling are also great methods if you also need low-impact routines.
Controlling your weight is arguably the best prevention and treatment for high blood pressure. If you can lose excess pounds, your blood pressure will drop.
Your waistline is a general tell-tale of blood pressure related risks as well. Men with a waistline over 40 inches and women with a waistline over 35 inches are at a higher risk of blood pressure-related events.
With diet and exercise, you should also be able to help control your weight.
Other changes you can make include lifestyle changes. Quitting smoking is one of the highest methods of lifestyle changes to blood pressure. Each cigarette raises your blood pressure for up to half an hour after you have finished.
Reducing your overall stress levels can also reduce your blood pressure. While some changes may be easier than others, when it comes to your health, you should try and aim for as many goals as you can.
Regardless of your age or risk, high blood pressure can be a problem. You should monitor your blood pressure at home and seek medical advice whenever you have a question.
Always keep your doctor informed of your results and have your tests double checked by medical professionals. Eating healthy, regular exercise and reducing your stress levels will greatly reduce your risk of high blood pressure and the risks associated with it.
Our team at The Fitness Tribe often collaborates together to produce content. When you see “TFT Team” this is because the content was not written by a single author, but rather a team effort.