What Is Blood Pressure and Why Should I Care?

04/21/2015

Five Blood Pressure Secrets You Might Not Know


May is blood pressure awareness month, but you may be asking yourself, "What is blood pressure and why should I be aware of it?" Blood pressure is how blood is pushed and filled in the arteries throughout the body. Similar to how a tire is filled with air; too much air and you damage the tire. Blood pressure is measured with a number ratio consisting of two numbers: 1) The top number (Systolic) which measures the blood pressure in the arteries when the heart beats and 2) The bottom number (Diastolic) which measures the blood pressure in the arteries between heartbeats. Maintaining a normal blood pressure is important to maintaining overall heart health and preventing heart related health problems such as: cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke. The higher your blood pressure, the more strain you are putting on your heart and arteries. Here are five surprising facts about blood pressure to make you "aware" of its importance to your health.

Fact #1: Blood Pressure Levels Vary by Race and Ethnicity

Of all ethnic groups in the U.S., African Americans are more likely to develop high blood pressure and at an earlier age compared to other ethnic groups. Additionally there are more African American women with high blood pressure than African American men. Mexican Americans are the second highest at risk, followed by Caucasians.

Fact #2 : Have a Banana

You may already know that eating too much salty food can raise blood pressure, but did you know that you can counteract the negative effects of sodium with potassium? If your doctor approves it, you could increase the amount of potassium in your diet by eating potassium rich foods such as Bananas, Baked potatoes (with skin), orange juice and nonfat or low fat yogurt.

Fact #3: Early Warning Signs…there are none

In the U.S, 1 in 5 adults has high blood pressure and doesn't know it. Oftentimes, high blood pressure has no symptoms, yet silently causes damage to vital organs and functions of the body such as, heart, kidneys, breathing and vision. It is important to check your blood pressure regularly and know your numbers.

Fact #4: What is a good number?

Knowing your numbers is important to maintaining a healthy lifestyle, but what is considered a good blood pressure number? According to the American Heart Association, for adults age 20+ a normal blood pressure is less than 120/80 mm Hg, Prehypertension is 120-139/80-89, and High is 140-159/90-99. Keep in mind that your blood pressure readings do change from time to time depending on posture, stress, sleep, and food eaten (caffeine). A single high reading does not necessarily mean that you have high blood pressure.

Fact #5: You can check it yourself

Now that you know what a good number is, time to check it! Aside from your regular checkups with your doctor, there are ways to check your blood pressure on your own. One way is by purchasing a blood pressure monitor. Online prices for monitors vary from $20 -$160. Check with your doctor or the manufacturer to ensure that the device has been validated. Additionally there are community blood pressure screening programs that provide both education and resources to help you maintain a healthy lifestyle and monitor your blood pressure.

References

10 Natural Ways to Lower Blood Pressure. (n.d.). Retrieved April 13, 2015, from http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20488689_3,00.html

High Blood Pressure Facts, Causes, Tests, Risk Factors, and More Basics. (n.d.). Retrieved April 13, 2015, from http://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/guide/understanding-high-blood-pressure-basics?page=3

Understanding Blood Pressure Readings. (2015, March 2). Retrieved April 13, 2015, from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/AboutHighBloodPressure/Understanding-Blood-Pressure-Readings_UCM_301764_Article.jsp

Preventing High Blood Pressure: Healthy Living Habits. (2014, July 7). Retrieved April 13, 2015, from http://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/healthy_living.htm