High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a common condition that affects millions of people worldwide. According to the American Heart Association, roughly 45% of adults in the United States have high blood pressure. The condition can lead to serious health problems such as heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease if left untreated. Blood pressure is measured using two numbers – systolic and diastolic – and understanding what these numbers mean is the first step in managing your blood pressure. In this comprehensive guide, we will explain everything you need to know about what is a high blood pressure reading and how they relate to your overall health.
What Is Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of your arteries. Arteries, which carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body, have a certain amount of resistance. When your heart beats, blood is pushed through your arteries, creating pressure against the walls. This pressure is called systolic pressure and is the top number in a blood pressure reading. The diastolic pressure, or bottom number, is the pressure when your heart is at rest between beats. Both numbers are measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg).
Understanding the Numbers…
The American Heart Association defines normal blood pressure as 120/80 mmHg. If your blood pressure is consistently higher than this, you may have hypertension. Blood pressure readings between 120-129/80 mmHg are considered elevated, and anything above 130/80 mmHg is considered high. However, certain factors such as age, gender, and overall health may affect what’s considered a normal range. For instance, the National Institute of Health considers blood pressure below 140/90 mmHg as normal for adults over 65 years.
What Causes High Blood Pressure?
A variety of factors can cause high blood pressure, including an unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, being overweight, stress, smoking, and drinking. In some cases, high blood pressure may be caused by underlying health conditions such as kidney disease, sleep apnea, or adrenal disorders. Genetics also play a role in hypertension, as high blood pressure tends to run in families.
How To Lower Your Blood Pressure…
If you have high blood pressure, there are several lifestyle changes that you can make to lower your numbers. The first step is to adopt a healthy diet, such as a Mediterranean diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and fish. Reducing salt intake, limiting alcohol consumption, quitting smoking, and getting regular exercise also help lower blood pressure. For some people, medication may be required to manage hypertension. Your doctor will review your medical history, overall health, and blood pressure readings before recommending a treatment plan.
High blood pressure is a serious condition that requires vigilance and proper management. By understanding what blood pressure numbers mean and what factors can cause high blood pressure, you can take steps to safeguard your health and lower your risk of complications. By adopting a healthy lifestyle and working with your healthcare team, you can keep your blood pressure under control and protect your heart health for years to come.