Your blood pressure is the force of your blood against the walls of your arteries as your heart pumps. Every time your heart beats, it pumps blood into the arteries. Your blood pressure is highest when your heart beats and lowest when the heart rests between beats. Blood pressure readings use two numbers, read one over the other. The top number (systolic pressure) measures blood pressure when the heart beats. The bottom number (diastolic pressure) measures blood pressure in between heartbeats. A normal blood pressure reading is 120/80 or slightly lower. If you have a blood pressure reading of 140/90 or higher, you’re considered to have high blood pressure (also known as hypertension).
High blood pressure usually doesn’t have any symptoms, so you may not realize you have it.
Taking care of high blood pressure
High blood pressure increases your risk of heart problems, stroke, and kidney problems. If you have chest pains, a severe headache, nausea, dizziness, or lose your sight, call your doctor immediately.
If you or your family have a history of high blood pressure, talk to your doctor about the best ways to control it. You may be able to take medication. You also can try these tips to keep your blood pressure in a healthy range:
- Exercise regularly. This keeps your heart fit and helps you maintain a healthy weight.
- Reduce stress. Try relaxation techniques such as guided imagery or mediation.
- Don’t smoke. Smoking can raise your blood pressure.
- Eat a healthy diet. Fill your plate with foods low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium, and try to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Regular exercise and a healthy diet can help.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine because they can raise your blood pressure.
Research has shown that following a healthy eating plan can both reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure and lower an already elevated blood pressure.
For an overall eating plan, consider the DASH eating plan. “DASH” stands for “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension,” a clinical study that tested the effects of nutrients in food on blood pressure. Study results indicated that elevated blood pressures were reduced by an eating plan that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and lowfat dairy foods and is low in saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol. The DASH eating plan includes whole grains, poultry, fish, and nuts and has reduced amounts of fats, red meats, sweets, and sugared beverages.
A second clinical study, called “DASH-Sodium,” looked at the effect of a reduced dietary sodium intake on blood pressure as people followed either the DASH eating plan or a typical American diet. Results showed that reducing dietary sodium lowered blood pressure for both the DASH eating plan and the typical American diet. The biggest blood pressure-lowering benefits were for those eating the DASH eating plan at the lowest sodium level (1,500 milligrams per day).
The DASH-Sodium study shows the importance of lowering sodium intake whatever your diet. But for a true winning combination, follow the DASH eating plan and lower your intake of salt and sodium.
Submitted by Derrick Walker:
Derrick Walker is an advocate of holistic health and believes in cultivating a healthy lifestyle. Derrick has spent the past twenty years managing and connecting disparate systems and building comunity on the internet. He has consulted to, such giants of these industries as: I.B.M.; Syntel, Ford ; Yamaha; Intuit Software; Warner Bros, Universal Studios, and Siebel to name just a few. Derrick currently manages an internet media consultancy and produces health and technology events.