Why make your heart work harder?
Blood pressure is the measurement of the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels.
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is dangerous because it makes your heart work harder than it should to pump blood through your body. It can lead to the hardening of arteries and increase the risk of stroke. It can also cause kidney disease and contribute to heart failure.
(Suffering from heart disease? Grab our free guide to learn how you can manage it moving forward.)
What’s Normal and What’s Not?
When a doctor measures your blood pressure there are two important numbers. There is a top number known as systolic blood pressure, which is the highest pressure when your heart beats. The bottom number is diastolic blood pressure, which is the lowest pressure when your heart relaxes between beats.
Regular blood pressure should be at 120/80. Elevated blood pressure is between 120 - 129 with diastolic blood pressure below 80.
Hypertension begins when the systolic reading is between 130-139 and the diastolic number is 80-89. A patient at this point might be prehypertensive, and a doctor can decide whether or not medication or simple lifestyle changes will lower blood pressure.
Stage 2 High Blood Pressure begins at 140/90. Individuals with systolic blood pressure (top number) over 180 or diastolic blood pressure (bottom number) over 120, they are considered to be in a “hypertension crisis,” and their risk of stroke is elevated.
It is critical for a patient to meet with their doctor or visit an emergency room if they are experiencing a hypertension crisis along with symptoms like a severe headache, blurred vision, confusion, shortness of breath, severe anxiety or chest pains.
Smoking and chewing tobacco will immediately increase blood pressure, so if you’re prehypertensive, then this habit could cause you to experience a hypertensive crisis. More importantly, though, tobacco can damage the lining of your artery walls, which can also increase your risk of heart disease. Researchers have found that second-hand smoke can be equally as dangerous.
2. Diet and Weight
If you’re overweight, you’ll need more blood to supply oxygen and nutrients to your tissue. When the volume of blood circulated through your blood vessels increases, so does the pressure on your artery walls.
Also, keep a close eye on your sodium intake. Salt raises the amount of sodium in your bloodstream, which affects how well your kidneys can remove water. The result is high blood pressure because of extra fluid. That’s why many blood pressure treatments include a water pill.
Diet and weight are closely related. Typically, if you have a healthy diet, you’ll lose weight and lower your blood pressure.
3. Limited Physical Activity
Limited physical activity and an unhealthy diet not only contribute to obesity, but they can also influence high blood pressure.
Exercise helps lower blood pressure because you will exercise your heart muscle. When it gets stronger, your heart won’t need to work as hard, which results in lower blood pressure.
4. High Alcohol Consumption (More Than 1 to 2 Drinks Per Day)
Several large studies have found a correlation between alcohol consumption and elevated blood pressure. Regardless of gender, ethnicity, race or age, people who consume three or more alcoholic beverages a day will have higher blood pressure than those who don’t drink (or drink less).
Reducing or eliminating alcohol consumption could make a big difference to someone who is prehypertensive. If someone has untreated stage 2 high blood pressure, they could find themselves in a hypertensive crisis after consuming too much alcohol.
Just because you have a stressful life or job, doesn’t mean you're destined to always experience elevated blood pressure. Exercise, getting enough sleep, learning to meditate and practicing ways to reduce your stress can lower your blood pressure. We also recommend taking an afternoon walk when you’re at the office.
As you age, the chances for you to have high blood pressure increases. People at any age can have chronic symptoms. For some people, high blood pressure can show up in their late 20’s, but for many people, it doesn't become a problem until later in life.
Getting regular physicals and checkups as you get older is always a good idea. Be sure to ask your doctor what blood pressure range you should be in as you get older. Blood pressure expectations could vary depending on your age as some recent studies have shown.
It is possible to inherit high blood pressure. However, it doesn’t mean you're destined to have it. Instead, it means you might need to start taking steps to reduce your blood pressure at a younger age.
It’s also important to always let your doctor know about your genetics if your blood pressure starts getting higher, but they can’t find a cause.
Symptoms of Severe High Blood Pressure Can Include:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
After receiving the diagnosis that you have high blood pressure, it can feel overwhelming at first. What should you do? What should you change about your diet or lifestyle? What are the odds you’ll have a heart attack or stroke?
We’ve created a free guide to give you tips and strategies for living well despite your diagnosis.