Blood pressure that’s “just right” is an important component of overall good health. So what is “just right” blood pressure and how do you maintain it? “Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries as your heart beats,” says Earl Mangin, Jr., M.D., board certified cardiologist with Methodist Diagnostic Cardiology of Houston.
“Your blood pressure reading is made up of two numbers measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Systolic pressure, the top number in your blood pressure reading, is the measurement of pressure when your heart beats, pumping blood through the body. Diastolic pressure, the bottom number, is the pressure in between beats, when the heart is at rest. In general, your blood pressure is considered normal if it’s above 90/60 and less than 120/80 mm Hg.”
Sometimes called the silent killer, high blood pressure (HBP), or hypertension, can damage your body for years before it causes noticeable symptoms. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated one-third of American adults have hypertension and another 30% have pre-hypertension, slightly high blood pressure that is likely to become hypertension.
Left unchecked, high blood pressure can have deadly results. A 15 mm Hg rise in systolic pressure may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease (including stroke, heart attack and heart failure) by 56% in women and 32% in men. HBP also causes arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), eye damage and vision loss.
Also called hypotension, low blood pressure occurs when the force of blood being pumped through the body is lower than normal, which can reduce the supply of blood traveling to your brain and the rest of your body. Although low blood pressure is more loosely defined than HBP, most normal blood pressure doesn’t dip much below 90/60 mm Hg. And any significant and sudden drop in blood pressure of 20 mm Hg or more can cause problems. Symptoms of low blood pressure include blurry vision, confusion, dizziness, fainting, light-headedness, weakness and sleepiness.
If you experience symptoms of low blood pressure, sit or lie down and raise your feet above the level of your heart. Also, talk to your doctor. It’s important to find the exact reason for your drop in blood pressure to determine its seriousness and which treatment is best.
Recent studies indicate that, when it comes to blood pressure, lifestyle choices may outweigh the effects of aging.
- Shed extra pounds. Blood pressure generally rises as weight increases.
- Hop to it. Thirty to sixty minutes of exercise a day can lower blood pressure by 4 to 9 mm Hg.
- Add a DASH of healthy eating. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet emphasizes whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products.
- Slash sodium and boost potassium. High-potassium/low-sodium diets improve your blood pressure. Choose potassium-rich leafy greens, blackberries, grapes or grapefruit rather than sodium-packed packaged snacks.
- Check your blood pressure regularly to make sure you’re within normal limits.
FREE HEART SEMINAR & SCREENINGS
To learn more about heart disease please join us on Thursday, February 27 at Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital’s conference center. Knowing your risk is the first step to heart health. Join us to learn your 10-year risk for heart disease and receive cholesterol and blood pressure screenings. Screenings by appointment only from 5:30 to 7 p.m. Seminar presented by Dr. Earl Mangin, Jr., and Dr. John Passmore from 7 – 8 p.m. Registration required. Call 281.274.7500 or register online at houstonmethodist.org/events.