If you’ve ever been given a health exam by a doctor or nurse, you’re probably familiar with getting your blood pressure checked. A cuff is placed over your wrist or upper arm and inflates — constricting the arteries. When the air is released, the nurse uses a stethoscope to listen to the blood flow in your arm. This simple test actually plays a vital role in identifying high blood pressure and can help prevent serious medical problems from forming.
Your blood pressure measures how hard the blood in your veins pushes against your blood vessel walls. When that number becomes elevated, it signals that your heart is working too hard to send blood out to different parts of the body. This is known as high blood pressure. That extra work is dangerous and can eventually lead to serious conditions including atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), stroke, blindness, kidney disease and even heart failure. *Almost 1,000 deaths occur each day where high blood pressure was a primary or contributing cause.
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a relatively common condition in the United States. In fact, *nearly half of American adults have high blood pressure, and many do not even know they have it. Thus, it is known as the silent killer, because it quietly damages blood vessels and can increase your chance of developing a life-threatening condition.
What causes high blood pressure?
High blood pressure is fairly complex. It is characterized as primary hypertension or secondary hypertension. Primary hypertension is due to environmental and genetic factors. It tends to run in the family and may be triggered by obesity, diet, environment, stress and a sedentary lifestyle. You may be able to keep it under control by exercising, maintaining a healthy weight and limiting your salt intake.
Secondary hypertension, a less common form of the disease, results from specific conditions such as kidney failure or a tumor. Sleep apnea may be a contributing factor as well. In this case, if you treat the underlying condition, it’s possible that the hypertension may be better controlled and improve over time.
Your Ideal Blood Pressure
Your blood pressure measures two different functions of your heart and arteries. The first number is your systolic blood pressure. This measures how hard your blood pushes against your veins when the heart beats. The second number is the diastolic blood pressure. It measures the pressure in blood vessels when the heart rests between beats. Together, these numbers give your doctor a clear picture of your heart health.
Your blood pressure should be measured at least once a year at a well visit, or more often if you have a history of high blood pressure. Your physician will let you know where your blood pressure falls within these five ranges.
Normal: Below 120/80
Elevated: 120–129/less than 80
Stage 1 High Blood Pressure: 130-139/80-89
Stage 2 High Blood Pressure:
140 and above/90 and above
Hypertension Crisis: Higher than 180/higher than 120
What can you do to maintain a healthy blood pressure?
• Exercise regularly.
Daily exercise — even something as simple as walking around the block or taking the stairs instead of the elevator — can go a long way to boost your heart health. Physical activity also reduces stress and helps you relax, which can be an important part of managing your blood pressure.
• Eat a heart-healthy diet.
A plant-based diet should be a priority, no matter your blood pressure. A diet that focuses on fruits, vegetables and lean protein, and cuts back on saturated fat, sodium and caffeine can help your heart stay strong and healthy. Add these items to your grocery list.
Apples reduce risk of stroke.
Avocados reduce cholesterol.
Walnuts lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
Almonds reduce plaque buildup.
Chia seeds lower triglycerides.
Tomatoes increase “good” cholesterol.
Bananas reduce hypertension.
Garlic helps prevent blood-clot formation.
• Limit your alcohol intake.
Regular, heavy drinking can cause long-term damage to your heart. Save alcohol for special occasions.
• Make relaxation a priority.
The daily stress of work, household responsibilities and other chores can take a toll on our heart health. Chronic stress can release too much cortisol in your body, which weakens your immune system and heart muscles. Find ways to relax and unwind. Try a stretching class, daily journaling, relaxing with a good book, catching up with an old friend or finding time to practice your faith. Remember to embrace the joy in life. Your heart will thank you.
• Monitor your blood pressure at home.
Blood pressure monitors are available at drug stores, and you don’t need a prescription to get one. Monitoring at home can help you take a proactive role in your health. Share your findings with your doctor, so you can work together to develop a tailored plan to keep your blood pressure in a healthy range.
Protect your heart with expert hypertension care.
Identifying high blood pressure early is the key to lowering your risk of developing a life-threatening medical condition. AdventHealth Medical Group is home to experts in the evaluation and management of complex hypertension. Protect your heart.
About AdventHealth Medical Group
AdventHealth Medical Group is Central Florida’s most comprehensive multi-specialty medical group practice. With nearly 600 board-certified physicians, the group provides patients with a broad range of medical and surgical services across more than 40 medical specialties.
For more information or to make an appointment, call 866-997-3627 or visit AdventHealthMedicalGroup.com/Polk-County.