Despite how important it is to maintain a healthy blood pressure, determining what a healthy level is can be more complicated than you think. Yes, there are charts, and yes there are guidelines, but there are many variables that can affect what your specific blood pressure should be. Weight, age, physical activity and height can all affect blood pressure. For instance, did you know that it is normal in a healthy person to see blood pressure fluctuations? Did you know as you age blood pressure naturally rises? This can all affect an accurate reading, and an appropriate response.
What is Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is literally one of the life forces that helps keep you alive on a moment by moment basis. It is the pressure that forces blood flow from your heart and around your circulatory system. This blood flow moves oxygen and nutrients to your organs and extremities, it also moves antibodies and hormones around as well. While it pumps through your body it removes the naturally produced toxins as well as the carbon dioxide we produce when we breathe. If any one of these processes ceased to happen, death would be nearly instantaneous.
How does your body create this constant pressurization? It shouldn’t be a surprise that it’s through the consistent beating of your heart. As your heart expands and contracts, it forces blood to push through your veins, arteries and subsequently throughout your body. The circulatory system is perfectly engineered to take advantage of the high blood pressure from its first expression from the aorta of the heart, through the widest arteries, and then slowly lose pressure as it pushes into the tiny arteries at the farthest reaches of the extremities. Just as it reaches the lowest point it is flushed back into the heart for a re-pressurization and to start the cycle all over again. Without a question, the heart is the key player within the circulatory system, but the supporting actors are definitely the myriad of arteries and veins whose elasticity helps regulate blood pressure and flow throughout the body. That is why blood pressure can be so detrimentally affected by a narrowing of the arteries or in some extreme cases, blockages altogether. If there is a restriction of the blood flow, heart issues and heart attacks will surely follow.
Understanding a Blood Pressure Reading
While there are few ways to measure blood pressure, they all rely on measuring the the pulse during a heart contraction and during a resting period. Typically, this means using an armband to pause the blood flow to your upper arm, and then using a mechanism like a stethoscope to read the speed of the return of the pulse. A blood pressure reading is broken out into two numbers, for example 120/80. The 120 in this example represents the systolic reading linked to the heart’s contraction, and the 80 is the diastolic number which comes from the remaining “resting” pressure left in the arteries between the heart’s’ pumps.
What is Normal Blood Pressure?
Because blood pressure fluctuates under normal circumstances throughout the course of the week, and can even change throughout the day, it’s important to take your blood pressure regularly to get an accurate reading. Once you’ve had a reading from a few different days and a few different times, a more accurate baseline can be determined. According to the most commonly used medical guidelines, a normal blood pressure range (as broken out by age) is as per below:
Middle Age: 130/85
While these are the recommended guidelines put out by the medical community, there are starting to be some small adjustments being made by cardiologists. This is because for over a century the normal blood pressure reading for an adult was always 120/80, but new research is demonstrating that in more and more circumstances, this can be detrimental to heart health, especially over time. There is some evidence suggesting that 115/75 should be the new guidelines for adults, as even a 20/10mg rise in blood pressure can increase risk of heart disease and failure.
Risks of High Blood Pressure
Not surprisingly, having high blood pressure can lead to some extremely serious health issues and in some cases, death. After all, blood pressure is intricately linked to every part of your body, including all your organs, your brain and most importantly your heart. If high blood pressure is left unchecked, many healthy problems await, including:
- Heart Attack
- Vision Problems or Failure
- Heart Failure
- Kidney Failure
- Erectile Dysfunction
How to Get Blood Pressure Under Control
Hypertension is no laughing matter, and is increasingly becoming a major health issue for the populations of developed countries. These populations now work longer, exercise less, and rely more and more on junk food for sustenance. Thankfully, there are many easy lifestyle changes that can help you get your blood pressure in line:
- Stop Eating Junk Food: This means reducing salt intake, fat consumption and sugars. Eat more whole foods, including tons of fruit and vegetables.
- Exercise Regularly: This doesn’t mean running 10 miles every day (although excellent news if you do!), but it does mean moving your body at least moderately (brisk walking is perfect) for at least 30 minutes a day.
- Reduce or Eliminate Alcohol: Stay within the recommended daily quantities of alcohol consumption, only 1 oz per day for average size males, and 0.5 oz per day for females.
- Maintain a Healthy Body Weight: Hand-in-hand with a healthy diet, is keeping up a healthy weight. Blood pressure can easily get out of control if you are overweight, and it becomes very difficult to regulate especially without the use of medications.