What You Need to Know About Managing Blood Pressure
Understanding and managing your blood pressure can be vital to your well-being, especially if you’re over 5o. It can help you lower the risks of health problems in the future, such as heart attack, kidney diseases, and stroke.
NHS UK defines blood pressure as the measure of the force that your heart uses to pump blood around your body. It’s measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and given as two figures – systolic pressure and diastolic pressure.
Systolic pressure refers to the pressure when your heart drives blood out. Meanwhile, diastolic pressure is the pressure when your heart rests between the beats.
Factors that affect blood pressure
A poor diet, lack of exercise, and being overweight play a big role in your blood pressure. Consuming too much alcohol, smoking, and stress have negative impacts on blood pressure as well.
Genetics affects blood pressure. If your parents or relatives have blood pressure related problems, you might get them as well.
Your arteries become stiff as you age. Because of this, your heart has to work harder in order to circulate blood.
Here’s a table from Vive Health that gives a rough guide to understanding blood pressure as you age.
The normal blood pressure
Having a normal blood pressure means your whole body is healthy, especially, your heart, brain, arteries, and kidneys.
The American Heart Association considers normal blood pressure as readings of 90/60 mmHg or less.
High blood pressure
Blood pressure of 130/80 or higher means you have high blood pressure or hypertension.
Hypertension is dangerous. It can increase your risk of developing serious health problems, like coronary heart disease and kidney disease. When left untreated, it can lead to heart attack and stroke.
Symptoms of hypertension include:
- A severe headache
- Fatigue or confusion
- Vision problems
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Irregular heartbeat
- Pounding in your chest, neck, or ears
- Blood in the urine
Low blood pressure
Low blood pressure or hypotension is less common compared to high blood pressure. Still, it can be a side effect of a health condition, like dehydration and heart failure.
Symptoms of hypotension include:
- Clammy skin
- Loss of consciousness
- Blurry vision
How to maintain normal blood pressure
Regular exercise, even the light ones like walking or jogging is effective at controlling your blood pressure. It lets your body release nitric acid, the substance that opens up your blood vessels which reduces blood pressure.
Apart from that, exercise also strengthens your heart muscle and reduces stress.
Eat a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products. Avoid saturated fat, cholesterol, and processed foods.
Watch your weight
Being overweight can put you at risk of developing high blood pressure. Also, it can affect your heart health and cause diabetes, so monitor your weight and lose the excess pounds if needed.
Avoid too much salt
Consuming too much salt leads to high blood pressure. The recommended limit of sodium a day is 1,500 mg or a little over half a teaspoon of salt.
Instead of picking up the salt shaker to season your food, use herbs and spices. In addition, consuming potassium-rich foods like potatoes, bananas, avocado, and dark leafy vegetables can minimize the effects of sodium.
Avoid too much drinking and smoking
Nicotine and alcohol can raise blood pressure. Nicotine can cause cancer and heart disease as well, so it’s best to avoid smoking.
Stress can spike up your blood pressure, so it’s important to stay calm and positive all the time. Engage in some breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, or simply engaging in your favorite hobby. Being around family and friends can help as well.
Managing blood pressure and regularly monitoring it can help you live a healthier life. If you notice symptoms, consult a doctor right away. Remember, blood pressure is important to your overall health, so don’t take it for granted.