Known as the silent killer, high blood pressure can be a precursor to a heart attack or stroke. Yet, many of us have no idea what the numbers our medical professionals write down on our charts mean. Not only do we need to know what those numbers signify, but also how to control them. First we need to find out how to interpret our blood pressure readings, then we will look at some things we can do to manage our blood pressure.
The first step in managing blood pressure is understanding readings. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, often has no symptoms, so we need to know when our numbers are cause for alarm. First, let’s look at what each number represents. The top number is the systolic blood pressure. This measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats and is the higher of the two numbers. The bottom number denotes the diastolic blood pressure, which measures the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats. A normal range for blood pressure is lower than 120 for systolic and less than 80 for diastolic. Prehypertension numbers range from 120-139 systolic and 80-89 diastolic. A hypertension diagnosis occurs when the systolic is over 140 and the diastolic is higher than 90. How do we avoid high blood pressure?
Certain lifestyle choices help prevent and control hypertension. Nutrition and exercise help manage blood pressure. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grain, high fiber foods lowers the risk of hypertension. Reducing saturated and trans fats as well as sodium aids in keeping blood pressure in check. Maintaining a healthy weight also facilitates encouraging readings. As weight increases, so does blood pressure. Thirty minutes of moderate exercise regularly promotes healthy blood pressure levels. Drinking alcohol can raise blood pressure, so women should limit themselves to one drink a day and men should limit themselves to two. Finally, smoking increases blood pressure temporarily. Therefore, smoking habitually throughout the day can lead to prolonged increased blood pressure. Quitting smoking has profound benefits on overall health, including blood pressure. Stress also contributes to hypertension. Learning how to cope with stress via breathing techniques or massage can reduce your risk of high blood pressure.
It is important to monitor your blood pressure regularly. If you think you are at risk for high blood pressure, be sure to discuss preventative measures with your healthcare provider. Try to endeavor to make lifestyle choices that contribute to maintaining a healthy heart, and eliminate those behaviors that do not.
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