Visits to the doctor usually include a blood pressure check. This is a routine part of medical exams, as our blood pressure significantly impacts our health.
Our blood pressure can fluctuate at any moment, due to the way we sit or stand, the amount of physical activity we partake in, stress levels, and amount of sleep we get. Blood pressure rises with each heartbeat and falls when your heart relaxes between beats.
Approximately 70 million Americans have high blood pressure, or hypertension. The statistics show that 1 in every 3 people (30 percent) has increased risk for heart disease and strokes, the first and third leading causes of death in the United States. Anyone, including children can have high blood pressure. Making it vital and necessary to know the signs and how to control it. It is recommended by physician’s that your blood pressure be checked annually or more frequently, depending on the person and their health.
There are many factors that can determine the level of blood pressure, such as, age, family history, background, ethnicity, weight, gender, level of exercise, smoking or amount of alcohol consumed. A patient’s background provides important information for your doctor to determine your risk.
What is Blood Pressure?
By definition, blood pressure is the measure of pressure that is applied to the walls of your arteries as the blood flows through them. When your heart beats, it pumps blood around your body to give it the energy and oxygen it needs. As the blood moves, it forces and pushes against the sides of your blood vessels, hence the name blood pressure. Ideally, if in good health, on average people’s blood pressure should read 120 over 80 (120/80) .
What do the Numbers Mean?
Every blood pressure reading consists of two numbers or levels, which show either high or low blood pressure.
- The top number is called your systolic blood pressure. When your heart pumps blood, it beats and contracts. A device called a sphygmomanometer or blood pressure monitor, measures and shows the highest level your blood pressure reaches.
- The bottom number is your diastolic blood pressure. When the heart is resting between beats and filling with blood, it dilates (opens and expands). The blood pressure monitor measures and shows the lowest level your blood pressure reaches.
High vs Low Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure (more than 140/90), also known as hypertension, is caused when the heart is pumping and exerting excessive amounts of blood and pressure into the arteries of the lungs repeatedly. The reason for frequent checks, is because people with high blood pressure often do not experience any symptoms, or if they do, not immediately. The symptoms of high blood pressure include dizziness, shortness of breath, blurred vision, and palpitations. Factors such as smoking, being overweight or obese, and physical inactivity can increase a person’s risk of developing high blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, your doctor can suggest ways to treat it, which may include lifestyle changes or medication.
Low blood pressure (less than 90/60): Low blood pressure, also known as hypotension, is caused when too much pressure in the arteries fill the heart with blood as it rests between beats. While the causes of low blood pressure aren’t entirely known, pregnancy, thyroid disease, diabetes, dehydration and heat stroke may be contributing factors. Sudden drops in blood pressure can be problematic, as depriving the brain of oxygen, can result in dizziness or lightheadedness, causing someone to faint.
Tips On Keeping Your Blood Pressure Stable
1. Exercise regularly: Not exercising increases risk of high blood pressure and causes a host of other complications. Exercising for 30 to 60 minutes five days a week will usually lower a person’s blood pressure by 4 to 9 mmHg. Make sure you check with your doctor before starting any physical activity program. Exercise needs to be tailored to the needs and health of the patient.
2. Drink less alcohol: People who drink more than moderate amounts of alcohol regularly are at risk of experiencing elevated blood pressure levels.
3. Lose weight: Eating a healthy diet will lower blood pressure, and will result in weight loss, as obesity is a risk factor that may lead to high blood pressure. Achieving your ideal body weight involves a combination of exercise, good diet, and at least seven hours of quality sleep each night.
4. Medications: There are several blood pressure medications out there today, such as beta-blockers. Some patients may need to take a combination of different drugs to effectively control their high blood pressure. Doctors may advise discontinuing treatment if the patient is able to maintain good blood pressure levels through lifestyle changes for a given period and is not considered to be at significant risk of stroke or cardiovascular disease.
5. Drink less caffeine and eliminate energy drinks: Excessive caffeine is not good for people who have high blood pressure. Remember that caffeine is present in most coffee, tea, soda, and energy drinks. Energy drinks are not good for the body, and if consumed too much, they can cause heart complications. Research suggests that caffeine and taurine levels in energy drinks could be responsible for increases in hypertension and heart rate.
6. Rest: The number of hours we sleep a night can really affect our overall health. Doing activities to relax the brain and body, such as yoga, can be very beneficial in reducing illness and lowering blood pressure.
Treatment for high blood pressure depends on several factors, such the severity and the associated risks of developing complications. It’s important to discuss your symptoms with your physician to discover if you are experiencing high or low blood pressure, in order to receive proper treatment. Note that you should always check with a healthcare professional to discuss lifestyle changes before making any drastic ones yourself.
To learn more about the importance of checking your blood pressure, talk to your physician at Intercoastal Medical Group about checking your blood pressure today, as it can save your life. You can request this appointment online.