December 1, 2021 12:13 pm
As blood flows through your body’s arteries, it pushes against the vessels’ walls. If it consistently pushes with too much force, you have high blood pressure. More than one-third of adults in the U.S. are living with high blood pressure, according to the National Institutes of Health—and that puts them at greater risk for cardiovascular disease, including heart attack and stroke. Here are some facts to know regarding this serious cardiac risk factor.
1. Blood pressure involves two kinds of pressure—and two numbers.
When you check your blood pressure, the results appear as two numbers, both measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg):
- Systolic pressure is the first or top number. This is the pressure against the artery walls when your heart beats.
- Diastolic pressure is the second or bottom number. It shows the pressure on the artery walls when your heart is at rest.
The American Heart Association defines normal blood pressure as a systolic number of less than 120 and a diastolic number of less than 80. Consistently higher numbers may indicate a problem:
- Elevated blood pressure is systolic pressure of 120 to129 and diastolic pressure of less than 80.
- High blood pressure (stage 1) is systolic pressure measuring 130 to 139 and diastolic pressure of 80 to 89. Numbers that exceed those ranges indicate more severe disease.
You can’t diagnose high blood pressure at home based on one reading. Only a physician or another qualified medical provider can diagnose this condition.
2. You may not have any signs something is wrong.
In most cases, high blood pressure doesn’t cause symptoms—in other words, it can develop without your knowledge. Consequently, it’s important to see your primary care physician (PCP) for an annual wellness exam, which will include a blood pressure check. That can allow your PCP to diagnose and treat high blood pressure early. He or she may refer you to a cardiologist for treatment if you have other risk factors for heart disease.
3. Knowing high blood pressure risk factors can help you protect your heart.
A variety of factors can increase your risk for high blood pressure. Knowing which ones affect you—and which ones you can change—can help you better understand how to improve your heart health. High blood pressure risk factors include:
- Being Black or Hispanic
- Chronic kidney disease
- Family history of high blood pressure
- Lack of exercise
- Metabolic syndrome
- Overconsumption of alcohol
- Poor sleep and sleep apnea
- Thyroid diseases
- Too much salt in your diet
4. You can take many steps to lower your blood pressure.
The most important high blood pressure fact may be this one: Healthy lifestyle changes can help you reduce your risk. Likewise, many of these same modifications can help you lower your blood pressure if it’s high. Steps you can take include:
- Doing something relaxing or enjoyable every day to help manage stress
- Eating more fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and fewer salty foods
- Gradually increasing your physical activity until you’re exercising at a moderate intensity for at least 30 minutes most days of the week
- Limiting your alcohol intake to no more than one drink (for women) or two drinks (for men) per day
- Maintaining a healthy weight with healthy eating and exercise
- Quitting if you smoke
You may not be able to lower your blood pressure through lifestyle changes alone, so your physician may recommend medicine to help.
Checking your blood pressure regularly is one key way to keep an eye on your heart health. Learn about other important screenings for cardiovascular disease available at the Magnolia Regional Heart Center.
This post was written by Magnolia Regional Health Center