Imagine a garden hose hooked up to a spigot. When the hose is flexible and there are no kinks in it, you can turn on the water full blast and it will flow easily through the hose. But if there’s a kink in the hose, the water doesn’t flow as well beyond the kink. And the pressure inside the hose builds up behind the kink. Or imagine there is gunk inside the hose blocking the path of the water. Your arteries are a lot like that garden hose.
Blood pressure is measured both when the heart is actually beating (systolic pressure – the first measurement) and between beats (the resting rate, or diastolic pressure – the second measurement). It is given as two figures, eg 120/80. A device called a sphygmomanometer is used. An inflatable cuff is wrapped around your upper arm. When inflated the cuff stops the blood flow in the main blood vessel in your arm. The nurse then watches a gauge in the sphygmomanometer and listens through a stethoscope as the air in the cuff is released. When the first sound of the heartbeat is heard, the systolic pressure is recorded. When the sound disappears, the diastolic pressure is recorded. Sometimes a computerised blood pressure machine is used to take the readings automatically.
Obesity: As body weight increases, the blood pressure rises. Obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30 kg/m. A BMI of 25-30 kg/m is considered overweight (BMI=weight in pounds x 703/ height in inches). Being overweight increases the risk of high blood pressure. Healthcare professionals recommend that all individuals who are obese and have high blood pressure lose weight until they are within 15% of their healthy body weight.
When was the last time you thought about your blood pressure? If you're like most people, it probably hasn't been since your doctor mentioned it during your last checkup. But high blood pressure (hypertension) is a serious condition that can lead to life-threatening problems, like heart attack and stroke. The good news is that you can lower your risk of hypertension with lifestyle changes.
Enlarged heart. High blood pressure increases the amount of work for your heart. Like any heavily exercised muscle in your body, your heart grows bigger (enlarges) to handle the extra workload. The bigger your heart is, the more it demands oxygen-rich blood but the less able it is to maintain proper blood flow. As a result, you feel weak and tired and are not able to exercise or perform physical activities. Without treatment, your heart failure will only get worse.
Healthy blood pressure in adults is a reading below 120 systolic and 80 diastolic. Blood pressure between 120 to 129 systolic and under 80 diastolic is considered elevated. Elevated blood pressure means you have a greater risk of developing high blood pressure later on. Your doctor may suggest eating less salt, eating a heart healthy diet, or living a more active lifestyle.
Lowering high blood pressure is as easy as one, two, tea: Adults with mildly high blood pressure who sipped three cups of hibiscus tea daily lowered their systolic BP by seven points in six weeks, found Tufts University researchers. The phytochemicals in hibiscus are probably responsible for the large reduction in high blood pressure, the study authors say.
A 2013 review on yoga and blood pressure found an average blood pressure decrease of 3.62 mm Hg diastolic and 4.17 mm Hg systolic when compared to those who didn’t exercise. Studies of yoga practices that included breath control, postures, and meditation were nearly twice as effective as yoga practices that didn’t include all three of these elements (24).
As you age, your body goes through many changes that can put you at risk for other conditions. If you’re over 50, having a higher than usual systolic pressure might increase your risk of developing heart disease. Systolic blood pressure tends to increase steadily over time due to stiff arteries, a build-up of plaque, and a higher rate of cardiac and vascular disease. This means older adults need to be even more vigilant about monitoring their blood pressure and practicing heart-healthy self-care.
Facial flushing: Facial flushing occurs when blood vessels in the face dilate. It can occur unpredictably or in response to certain triggers such as sun exposure, cold weather, spicy foods, wind, hot drinks and skin-care products. Facial flushing can also occur with emotional stress, exposure to heat or hot water, alcohol consumption and exercise — all of which can raise blood pressure temporarily. While facial flushing may occur while your blood pressure is higher than usual, high blood pressure is not the cause of facial flushing.
A class of drugs called angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs) is commonly used to lower high blood pressure. This class includes drugs such as losartan (brand name: Cozaar), candesartan (Atacand), eprosartan (Teveten), irbesartan (Avapro), telmisartan (Micardis) and valsartan (Diovan). We asked how much this class of drugs lowers blood pressure and whether there is a difference between individual drugs within the class. The available scientific literature was searched to find all trials that had assessed these questions.
Is there anything garlic can’t do? The vegetable is praised in natural medicine and is linked to lowering cholesterol and high blood pressure, too, according to Healthline. This natural antibiotic has the active ingredient allicin to thank for its health benefits. Plus, more research shows eating garlic alters how blood vessels dilate, resulting in blood pressure changes as well.
Eat berries. Berries have many health benefits, and one of them is improving blood pressure and reducing other heart disease risks. Berries, like strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries, have lots of polyphenols, which are great for your heart. They’re also really tasty. So, load up on the berries for better blood pressure. If you don’t like eating them all the time, try adding them to a smoothie made with low-fat or fat-free yogurt without added sugar. Throw in some ice, banana, and low-fat milk for a heart-healthy treat.
The new guidelines stem from the 2017 results of the Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT), which studied more than 9,000 adults ages 50 and older who had systolic blood pressure (the top number in a reading) of 130 mm Hg or higher and at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. The study's aim was to find out whether treating blood pressure to lower the systolic number to 120 mm Hg or less was superior to the standard target of 140 mm Hg or less. The results found that targeting a systolic pressure of no more than 120 mm Hg reduced the chance of heart attacks, heart failure, or stroke over a three-year period.
Hypertension in African-Americans tends to occur earlier in life and tends to be more severe. Plus, some medications that work to lower blood pressure in other ethnicities may have limited effect on African-Americans. Thiazide diuretics (such as HCTZ) or a calcium channel blocker are recommended first choices along with the possible add-on of a second drug from either the ACE inhibitor class or the angiotensin II receptor blocker group.
The new guidelines note that blood pressure should be measured on a regular basis and encourage people to use home blood pressure monitors. Monitors can range from $40 to $100 on average, but your insurance may cover part or all of the cost. Measure your blood pressure a few times a week and see your doctor if you notice any significant changes. Here are some tips on how to choose and use a monitor.
How low should you go? Aim to keep your sodium intake below 1,500 mg for healthy blood pressure, recommends the American Heart Association. That’s about half of what most Americans consume per day. Going easy on the saltshaker can help, but you’ll make a bigger impact by watching the sodium count in packaged or processed foods, Obarzanek says. (Pay extra attention to bread and rolls, pizza, soup, cold cuts, poultry, and sandwiches, which tend to pack the most salt.) Then try these other simple ways to slash your salt intake.
Unlike the smooth action of the hot tub pump, the human heart expands and contracts mightily each second or so, causing your blood pressure to be comparatively high one moment, and comparatively low in the next. That is why we need two measurements when checking your blood pressure: one at the moment when the pressure is highest (your systolic blood pressure), and one a moment later, when the pressure is lowest (your diastolic blood pressure).
A blood pressure reading measures both the systolic and diastolic forces, with the systolic pressure listed first. The numbers show your pressure in units of millimeters of mercury (mm Hg)—how high the pressure inside your arteries would be able to raise a column of mercury. For example, a reading of 120/80 mm Hg means a systolic pressure of 120 mm Hg and diastolic pressure of 80 mm Hg.