Your blood pressure is reported by placing the systolic number over the diastolic number. For example, your blood pressure might be reported as 120/80. To be diagnosed with high blood pressure, only one of these numbers must be outside of the normal range. But, remember that one high reading doesn’t mean there’s a problem. High blood pressure is a condition that can only be diagnosed by your doctor.
Whelton PK, Carey RM, Aronow WS, et al. 2017 ACC/AHA/AAPA/ABC/ACPM/AGS/APhA/ASH/ASPC/NMA/PCNA guideline for the prevention, detection, evaluation, and management of high blood pressure in adults: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2018;71(19):e127-e248. PMID: 29146535 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29146535.
Reduce processed sugar and refined carbohydrates. Many studies have shown a link between high blood pressure and processed sugar. Even moderate amounts of sugar can raise blood pressure. For example, during the Framingham Women’s Health Study, women who drank as little as one soda per day had higher blood pressure than women who drank less. It’s not just sweet sugar that raises blood pressure. Refined carbohydrates, like white bread and pasta, covert to sugar quickly when they’re eaten, and they may also cause blood pressure to rise. There is evidence that reducing refined sugar intake can lower blood pressure and improve heart health.
If your systolic and diastolic blood pressure are in two different categories, doctors consider the number that is in the higher category. For example, if your blood pressure is 135/91, your systolic blood pressure is in the prehypertensive range and your diastolic blood pressure is in the range of Stage 1 hypertension. Your measurement or 135/91 would place you in the category of Stage 1 hypertension.
Again, foods that lower blood pressure are usually high in potassium and similar nutrients. Famously rich in blood pressure-lowering potassium, one banana contains about 420 milligrams, or 11 percent of the 4,700 milligrams the American Heart Association recommends people consume daily. Surprisingly, however, many veggies are actually higher in potassium than these popular fruits. A cup of Swiss chard boasts 960 milligrams, a cup of cooked white beans has nearly 1,200 milligrams, and a whole avocado has 975 milligrams.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed about how to make changes to your diet or if you’re trying to lose weight, you may want to consider working with a registered dietitian-nutritionist (RDN). Some people work with an RDN if they have a health condition like type 2 diabetes. In fact, high blood pressure is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. This is partly because they share similar modifiable risk factors, like being overweight or obese, following an unhealthy diet, and having a lack of physical activity.
Let your doctor know if your treatment isn’t helping your blood pressure. You may have high blood pressure that is independent of an underlying medical condition. This type of high blood pressure is the most common type and is known as essential hypertension. Patients with essential hypertension will likely require lifelong medication to control it.
The causes are most often some combination of clogged “pipes” and excessive salt in the diet. Lifestyle changes, such as appropriate diet and exercise, are among the most effective treatment strategies for high blood pressure. Relaxation, meditation, and otherwise “taking it easy” are not effective solutions, as valuable as such strategies may be for your psychological well-being.
Headaches strike over 90% of adults each year. You may be able to wait out some and let them pass, but others may be a sign that your body is asking you to take action. There is a chance that your headache could be a symptom of high blood pressure. If there are no other causes of your headache, you should ask your healthcare provider about getting your blood pressure checked.
If you have hypertension, ask your doctor if OSA could be behind it. (In addition to loud snoring, common symptoms include excessive daytime tiredness and early morning headaches.) Getting your sleep apnea under control could be helpful for improving your blood pressure, says Robert Greenfield, MD, Medical Director of Non-Invasive Cardiology & Cardiac Rehabilitation at MemorialCare Heart & Vascular Institute at Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley, CA.
Loading up on potassium-rich fruits and vegetables is an important part of any blood pressure-lowering program, says Linda Van Horn, PhD, RD, a professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Potassium encourages the kidneys to excrete more sodium through urination, and that sodium excretion can help lower blood pressure.
Melissa is a Quality Assurance Nurse, professor, writer, and business owner. She enjoys empowering older adults to live their best life through daily self-care activities. Melissa is owner of www.makingspace.company, a website dedicated to helping women find their creative passions through writing and co-owner of enursingresources.com, a start-up Nursing CE company that will offer online courses soon.
When discussing blood pressure issues, the healthcare professional may ask questions about past medical history, family history, and medication use, including prescriptions, over-the-counter medications, herbal remedies, and food additives. Other questions may include lifestyle habits, including activity levels, smoking, alcohol consumption, and illegal drug use.
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.
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.
Some high blood pressure medications can, in fact, lead to weight gain. Common offenders include older beta blockers such as propranolol (Inderal) and atenolol (Tenormin). There could be several reasons for this -- including the fact that the medications can make patients feel tired and thus less likely to exercise. Minoxidil tablets (Loniten) -- used only when other antihypertensive medications have failed -- can also cause weight gain. Weight gain is also listed as a common side effect of doxazosin (Cardura). Diuretics are more likely to cause weight loss.
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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.
Digital blood pressure readings have two numbers – systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure. The top number is your systolic blood pressure (the highest pressure when your heart beats and pushes blood around your body), and the bottom number is your diastolic blood pressure (the lowest pressure between heart beats). A blood pressure reading is usually these two numbers over each other – like 120/80.
They may not be great for your breath, but when it comes to your blood pressure, onions can’t be beat. Onions are a great source of quercetin, which a study in the British Journal of Nutrition found effective at lowering blood pressure in overweight and obese study subjects suffering from hypertension and pre-hypertension. To make your onions less pungent, try sautéing them in olive oil for a sweeter flavor and a boost of heart-healthy fat.
The sympathetic nervous system is stimulated by exercise, stress, anxiety, pain, anger, and fear, which increases blood pressure. Blood pressure returns to baseline within five minutes of rest following activity. Try it out. Have a peer take your blood pressure. Then, run on the spot or do some other cardiac activity for five minutes. Have the peer take your blood pressure again, and then lie down and rest for five minutes. Take the blood pressure again. Note the changes.