Health care providers measure blood pressure with a sphygmomanometer (sfig-mo-muh-NAH-muh-ter), which has a cuff that's wrapped around the upper arm and pumped up to create pressure. When the cuff is inflated, it squeezes a large artery in the arm, stopping the blood flow for a moment. Blood pressure is measured as air is gradually let out of the cuff, which allows blood to flow through the artery again.
Various organizations including the United States Department of Agriculture recommend that Americans consume less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day. But the ideal limit is really no more than 1,500 mg per day for most adults. Unfortunately, the average sodium intake of Americans is more than 3,400 mg per day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This is partly because sodium is so easy to consume — just 1 teaspoon of salt contains 2,300 mg of sodium.
Without proper diagnosis, you may not know that your blood pressure is increasing. Uncontrolled high blood pressure can lead to serious health problems. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for stroke and kidney failure. The damage to blood vessels that occurs due to chronic high blood pressure can also contribute to heart attacks. If you’re pregnant, high blood pressure can be especially dangerous for both you and your baby.
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.
Early signs of pulmonary arterial hypertension can be related to the trouble you have getting blood to your lungs to get oxygenated. You might experience shortness of breath and a fast heart beat while doing activities that are otherwise routine, such as climbing stairs. You might also have chest pain, a reduced appetite, and pain in your chest or upper right portion of your abdomen.
You shouldn't ignore the fact that you may have elevated blood pressure readings in the doctor's office but not other places like a health fair, on a home monitor or a drugstore blood pressure machine. This "white-coat hypertension," as it's known, shouldn't be disregarded. A study found that people with this sign of raised blood pressure under stress showed early signs of stiff arteries and an overworked heart that could lead to higher blood pressure later on.
If your blood pressure is 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or lower, it’s considered normal. Generally, if the blood pressure reading is under 90/60 mm Hg, it is abnormally low and is referred to as hypotension. Some adults regularly have a blood pressure in the hypotensive range, but have no symptoms at all and do not require treatment. In serious cases, though, hypotension can result in a decreased supply of oxygen and nutrients to your brain, which can eventually lead to life-threatening shock.
Cut down on salt. As you get older, the body and blood pressure become more sensitive to salt (sodium), so you may need to watch how much salt is in your diet. Most of the salt comes from processed foods (for example, soup and baked goods). A low-salt diet, such as the DASH diet, might help lower your blood pressure. Talk with your doctor about eating less salt.
The reasons for this astonishing success are not yet entirely understood. Certainly, two of the major causes of high blood pressure are being addressed: excessive dietary salt is completely eliminated, and it is likely that some patients experience some reversal of the atherosclerosis process. However, Dr. Campbell has suggested that additional mechanisms may be partly responsible for fasting’s remarkable effects, such as the rapid reduction of a phenomenon known as “insulin resistance.”
It’s important to determine whether your low blood pressure is “a primary problem or secondary problem,” notes Lawrence. A primary problem means that the body’s reflexes are not working as they should. Secondary causes mean that the low blood pressure is a result of things like dehydration or the effects of certain medications. “Some anti-hypertensive [medications] are more likely to cause hypotension than others, and a lot of it is dose-dependent,” says Lawrence. “In most people, there will be some easily identifiable secondary cause, or some easy solution to what may even be a chronic problem that has no secondary cause, and that’s why it’s important to see your doctor, so they can make an appropriate assessment.”
Healthcare professionals use a stethoscope and a manual sphygmomanometer to measure your blood pressure. Typically they take the reading above your elbow. The sphygmomanometer has a bladder, cuff, bulb, and a gauge. When the bulb is pumped it inflates the bladder inside the cuff, which is wrapped around your arm. This inflation will stop the blood flow in your arteries. The stethoscope is used to listen for sound of the heartbeat, and no sound indicates that there is no flow. As the pressure is released from the bladder, you will hear the sound of the blood flowing again. That point becomes systolic reading. The diastolic reading is when you hear no sound again, which means that the blood flow is back to normal.
People with high blood pressure who drank about eight ounces of beetroot juice experienced a decrease in blood pressure of about 10 mm Hg, according to a study published in April 2013 in the American Heart Association journal Hypertension. The magic ingredient? Nitrate, which turns into nitric oxide, a gas that widens blood vessels and aids blood flow. A glass a day could help keep blood pressure at a lower, healthier level. Here are 31 things you can do right now to avoid high blood pressure.