Most of us know that blood pressure is important, and that keeping your blood pressure under control is vital to your health. But do you know why blood pressure matters, and what specific role it plays?
On average, your heart pumps over 100,000 times a day. With each contraction, the heart pumps blood into the arteries that carry the blood to the rest of the body. Your blood pressure readings measure two factors: the force that pushes on the walls of your blood vessels as they carry blood and oxygen to your organs (this is called systolic pressure) and the force that’s created when your heart rests between beats (this is called diastolic pressure).
In a blood pressure reading of 120/80, the systolic pressure is the first number and the diastolic pressure is the second one. If either one of these pressures is too high, it can signal a larger problem within your body.
A reading that is too high means that too much pressure is being put on the walls of your blood vessels, making them stressed. This stress can eventually lead to increased risk of heart attack, stroke, blood clots and kidney failure.
High blood pressure, called hypertension, is often known as the “silent killer” — up to one-third of people with high blood pressure are completely unaware. It often has no symptoms (though some people may experience headaches, vision problems, a pounding sensation in the chest, neck and head; and fatigue or confusion).
While high blood pressure can be a serious medical concern, it’s not an uncommon problem. The Centers for Disease Control estimates than 29% of American adults have hypertension. Some cases of hypertension are caused by controllable factors such as obesity, poor diet, excessive salt or alcohol intake, lack of physical activity, smoking, or stress. Sometimes it is caused by uncontrollable factors like genetics, age, race, and family history.
Fortunately, no matter what the cause, hypertension can be managed. Reducing your blood pressure can be as simple as increasing your physical activity. Getting up and moving around will, over time, reduce your weight, lower stress levels, and improve the health of your heart — all of which contribute to lowering blood pressure.
Watching what you eat is another simple way to reduce your blood pressure reading. It’s particularly important to keep your sodium (salt) intake low — ideally, no more than 1,500 mg per day. It’s not just the salt shaker that you need to be careful of; more than 70% of the sodium Americans eat comes from packaged, prepared and restaurant foods.
Finding a way to manage stress is another key to controlling high blood pressure. Prayer, meditation, yoga, and deep breathing are all ways to cope with the daily stressors of life and reduce the impact of stress on the heart.
Your doctor may also prescribe medications in addition to diet and lifestyle changes to help keep your blood pressure controlled.
Hypertension can be deadly — but it doesn’t have to be. By taking small steps toward a healthier lifestyle, high blood pressure be controlled.
Because there are few (if any) symptoms, high blood pressure can go undetected until it is life-threatening. Don’t let the lack of health insurance keep you from knowing and treating high blood pressure. Our low-cost ($30 or less) visits provide quality care for you and your family. Call us to today at 317-272-0708 to book an appointment!