Hypertension is a common diagnosis in medical practice and is usually considered to bear a serious connotation. Arterial hypertension has been described as the most common and important of all types of heart diseases.1 Yet the levels which constitute abnormally high blood pressure at various ages have not been accurately determined. The various figures now in use—140, 150 or 160 mm. of mercury systolic and 90 to 100 mm. of mercury diastolic—are arbitrary, particularly when age is concerned. The observation that many persons with high blood pressure live to old age suggests that undue significance is frequently attached to the degree of hypertension.2
Our bodies react to tension by releasing stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline into the blood. These hormones can raise your heart rate and constrict blood vessels, causing your blood pressure to spike. But slow breathing and meditative practices such as qigong, yoga, and tai chi can help keep stress hormones—and your blood pressure—in check, Williams says. (And if you haven't heard, health benefits of meditation include reduced inflammation, natural pain relief, and more.) Start with five minutes in the morning and five minutes at night and build up from there. The breathing exercise above is designed to help you fall asleep fast.
While eggs have had a checkered reputation in the past because of their cholesterol content, recent research suggests these protein powerhouses can actually help improve both your cholesterol and your blood pressure while keeping you satisfied. According to the American Journal of Hypertension, a high-protein diet, like one rich in eggs, can help lower blood pressure naturally while promoting weight loss, as well. Just make sure you’re not detracting from the health benefits of your egg-based breakfast by adding the wrong condiments; the sugar in ketchup and high salt content of hot sauce may reduce your protein-rich meal’s blood pressure-lowering effects.
Your doctor may also use a device called an ophthalmoscope to look at the blood vessels in your eyes. Doctors can see if these vessels have thickened, narrowed, or burst, which may be a sign of high blood pressure. Your doctor will also use a stethoscope to listen to your heart and the sound of blood flowing through your arteries. In some cases, a chest x-ray and electrocardiogram may be needed.
Understanding the normal BP range with age can help the doctor and you to estimate your cardiovascular health. Blood pressure levels can fluctuate significantly from one reading to the next and it is important to remember that just one abnormally high reading does not signify that you have high blood pressure. Doctors usually use an average of multiple blood pressure readings taken over a period of several days to arrive at a diagnosis of high blood pressure.
“The heart works to pump oxygen in the blood to all your tissues and organs,” explains Lara Kovell, M.D., a cardiologist at UMass Memorial Medical Center. “Blood pressure is a measure of the force of blood pushing against the blood vessels, or arteries, of the body. If you were able to hold on to one of your arteries, the blood pressure is the force you would feel on your hand.”
High blood pressure is usually caused by lifestyle factors as well as being genetically predisposed making up about 90-95% of cases hence being known as primary high pressure. Lifestyle factors can involve having excess sodium in the diet, high levels of body fat, smoking as well as alcohol. Secondary high blood pressure on the other hand is caused by an identifiable caused which is often time’s chronic kidney disease or even the use of birth control pills.
A healthy blood pressure is in the range 90/50 to 120/80. Blood pressure varies throughout the day and your levels of physical exertion and stress cause it to change, too. So blood pressure should be checked under resting conditions. Single measurements aren’t particularly meaningful. A diagnosis of high blood pressure (hypertension) isn’t normally made unless a high reading is measured on three separate occasions – usually over three months.
6. Cultivate stress management. You don’t need a meta-analysis of cohort studies to prove stress can raise blood pressure, but they exist. You can’t eliminate stress, but you can minimize its impact. Research shows yoga and meditation create effective strategies to manage stress and blood pressure. If those aren’t your thing, consider other stress-relieving tactics including deep breathing or practicing mindfulness.
Don’t get too excited. Turns out that dark chocolate (at least 50% to 70% cocoa) can give you a boost of a plant compound called flavanol. As with garlic, this antioxidant can raise your nitric oxide levels and widen blood vessels. That can make your blood pressure drop a notch. It goes without saying that a little bit of chocolate is all you need.