Having your blood pressure measured during a routine visit to the doctor may seem like such a common test that we don’t pay much attention to the results. Most of the time the physicians assistant will wright down the reading and tell you that you are within the normal range. However, when the readings go outside of the normal range, it can lead to major complications which is why the test is performed so regularly. It’s also a condition that can be control through lifestyle changes, so it’s important to understand what the readings mean and how you can manage it.
According to the NIH:
Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps blood. High blood pressure, sometimes called hypertension, happens when this force is too high.
Normal BP is defined as 120 over 80 mmHg. Some factors naturally cause BP to rise such as age. For this reason, the first stage of HBP is defined as 140 over 90 mmHg. Other conditions may raise BP even further to 160 over 100 mmHg which is the second stage.
It is important to keep BP in the normal range since it can impair health over the long run. Conditions which arise from HBP include chronic kidney disease, heart attack, stroke, eye damage, and aneurysms. Many kidney transplants are required due to kidney failure as a results of chronic HBP.
There are many causes of HBP including genetic and biological factors. However, the most controllable factors are environmental or lifestyle factors. Here are a few that contribute to HBP but which can be managed:
- Stay Fit. When we are overweight or obese, BP tends to increase. Eating properly will help keep the weight and the readings down. Exercising regularly not only helps reduce weight but also causes BP to decrease a few mmHG. This means not only eating less but also eating the right foods with less processed ingredients and more whole foods with good portions of fresh vegetables.
- Reduce Sodium. Consuming less salt can reduce BP. This is especially true if your normal sodium intake is very high. The recommended maximum per day is 2,300 mg which is about 1 teaspoon of salt. Sodium can pop up in unexpected places so it’s important to read food labels. Bread, condiments, and most processed foods contain high levels of salt. Restaurant food also contains very high levels of sodium, which is why eating at home has health benefits. Some dishes at restaurants may have as much as 4,000 mg of sodium.
- Reduce Stress. We often talk about feeling stressed out, but usually after the fact. Chronic stress can lead to HBP. So it’s important to understand what activities or situations will cause you stress ahead of time so you can avoid them or prepare to handle them in a way the lessens your stress. This requires some planning ahead of time, but it will go along way to managing your health.
HBP can be controlled and it should be a reading that has value to you in your quest for optimum health. If you are happy with your BP readings then you are prepared for better health outcomes in the future. If you feel the reading could be lower, there are steps you can take today to bring your BP into the normal range.