September 16, 2022
Each time your heart beats, it pumps blood through your body. Blood pressure is the force of that blood against the walls of the arteries, which carry it through the body with each pump. When your heart beats, your blood pressure goes up, and as it relaxes, it goes back down again.
Blood pressure is an important measurement of your overall health — that’s why they take your blood pressure each time you go to the doctor! If you’re wondering what this routine measurement reveals about your well-being, here’s what you need to know:
You will often see your blood pressure written as one number over another, with the first being higher. These numbers are known as systolic and diastolic pressure.
Systolic pressure is when the heart beats and pushes blood against your arteries, and diastolic pressure is when your heart is resting. Everything from diet to physical fitness to your emotional state can affect these numbers.
A blood pressure reading below 120/80 is considered normal, and anything higher may be cause for concern.
High blood pressure, known as hypertension, usually has no symptoms. Some people experience dizziness, headaches, nausea, or a racing heartbeat, but this is rare. Left unmanaged, high blood pressure can lead to serious health problems, including heart attacks and heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. And high blood pressure is especially dangerous if you also have diabetes , so it’s important to control both your diabetes and your blood pressure as well as you can.
Low blood pressure is a reading of 90/60 or lower. Some people naturally have low blood pressure all the time with no issues. For others, a medical condition or medication can cause the condition. Low blood pressure is generally only a problem if you experience dizziness, pass out, or, in rare cases, go into shock.
Being aware of the risk factors for hypertension is key to preventing the condition or catching it early. Getting older, being overweight, and certain behaviors — such as smoking, drinking too much alcohol, eating too much sodium, and not being physically active — can all put you at greater risk. Your family health history can also be a risk factor. If your parents have high blood pressure, your risk of developing the condition is higher.
The best way to prevent high blood pressure is by leading a healthy lifestyle. Being physically active, eating a healthy diet, maintaining a healthy body weight, cutting back on sodium, getting enough sleep, and avoiding tobacco and alcohol can all help lower your blood pressure. Another way to help control your blood pressure is to learn to better manage your stress. If you are unable to get your blood pressure under control with lifestyle changes, your doctor may prescribe a blood pressure medication to help manage the condition.
If you’re concerned about your blood pressure, consider investing in a home monitor to keep an eye on it, and keep track of any changes you observe. More than just a gauge of how hard your heart is working, blood pressure is a benchmark of your overall health — so try to keep it below 120/80!