Have a (Healthy) Heart: Maintain Your Blood Pressure

By: Michael Bloch, MD, Renown Institute for Heart and Vascular Health

September 26, 2017

A couple outdoors

Do you know your blood pressure numbers? Dr. Michael Bloch explains how maintaining healthy numbers are important for good quality of life and increasing longevity.

Know Your Numbers

High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects 85 million Americans — that’s one in three. And left untreated, it can lead to serious and sometimes life-threatening health concerns such as vision loss, kidney disease, heart failure, heart attack and stroke. But what is it, exactly, what makes it go up and why is that increase in pressure so dangerous?

All About Blood Pressure

In order to function properly, your body requires a continual supply of oxygen rich blood, which is goes to organs and tissues via blood vessels called arteries. Your beating heart produces the force (or pressure) your vessels require to move blood. This is your blood pressure.

Your blood pressure numbers reflect two forces at work — the pressure created as blood is pumped throughout the body (systolic) and the pressure when your heart is at rest in between beats (diastolic). A normal, healthy reading shows a systolic level at 120 or below over a diastolic level of 80 or less: 120/80.

An increase in pressure occurs slowly over time, straining the circulatory system and forcing the heart, blood vessels and tissues to work harder. This friction damages blood vessel walls and lets plaque buildup from LDL cholesterol, setting the stage for hardening of the arteries. As more and more plaque builds up, your blood vessels narrow, further raising blood pressure, damaging the circulatory system, and increasing your risk of serious health conditions.

The ‘Silent Killer’

High blood pressure is known as a “silent killer,” as most people with it have no symptoms. In fact, one in six of those affected don’t even know they have the condition. That’s why it’s so important to know your numbers. The only way to find out if you have high blood pressure is to have it measured, either by a health professional or using a home monitor.

If your numbers are high, there are things you can do to help lower it — it is treatable, but not curable. You can manage it with medications and lifestyle changes including:

  • Adhering to the Mediterranean diet
  • Decreasing sodium intake
  • Avoiding excessive alcohol consumption
  • Increasing exercise and activity levels
  • Losing weight

Prevention and Genetics

Even better? High blood pressure doesn’t just happen. You can prevent the condition altogether. How? Know your numbers and know your risk. Look at your family medical history. Genetics certainly increases the risk of it, but those same lifestyle choices that can improve poor blood pressure can also prevent you from developing it. So if your numbers are good, keep them that way — eat well, move your body, maintain a healthy weight, and drink alcohol in moderation.

Improve your heart health and quality of life with a healthy blood pressure. Learn more about living a heart-healthy lifestyle visiting the Heart Health section at BestMedicineNews.org.

This article also appeared in the Reno Gazette-Journal’s Health Source Sept. 24.

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