(This is Part 5 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)
Think for a moment about the pipes in your home right now. If you have running water, there is a pressure that keeps water moving through the pipes. Same thing if your house is heated by hot water; there is pressure in the lines to keep hot water moving throughout the house to keep it warm. If there’s not enough pressure, the running water trickles and there’s little to no heat and if there’s too much pressure there could be a pipe or valve that bursts leaving you with no water and no heat. Our bodies work almost identically to the example here with pipes and water, only the pipes are the blood vessels and the water is our life force, blood.
What is Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is the measure of the force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls (systole) and the subsequent recoil of the vessel walls pushing the blood continually along (diastole). Without enough pressure, it is difficult to get blood to and from the heart efficiently, often resulting in lightheadedness and dizziness. Too much pressure and there is stress on the body that is almost undetectable and felt without the use of a blood pressure reading. High blood pressure, otherwise known as hypertension, is dangerous because it makes the heart work harder to pump blood to the body and contributes to hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), rupturing of the vessels, and to the potential development of heart failure.
What is High Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure can vary greatly from measurement to measurement and situation to situation. (i.e. the white coat syndrome). An individual will be diagnosed as hypertensive when blood pressure is elevated for an extended period of time. Often there are no warning signs and 65 million American adults or about 1 in 3 people have high blood pressure.
What Is “Normal” Blood Pressure?
A blood pressure reading has a top number (the systolic) and bottom number (the diastolic). The ranges are:
- Normal: Less than 120 over 80 (120/80)
- Prehypertension: 120-139 over 80-89
- Stage 1 high blood pressure: 140-159 over 90-99
- Stage 2 high blood pressure: 160 and above over 100 and above
What Causes High Blood Pressure?
The exact causes of high blood pressure are not known, but several factors and conditions may play a role in its development, including:
- Smoking – preventable
- Being overweight or obese – preventable
- Lack of physical activity – preventable
- Too much salt in the diet – preventable
- Too much alcohol consumption (more than 1 to 2 drinks per day) – preventable
- Stress – preventable
- Older age
- Family history of high blood pressure
- Chronic kidney disease
- Adrenal and thyroid disorders
Blood pressure is of vital importance to our health, well-being and existence. Even though it’s something most of us probably take for granted, it’s one of the few health markers where we have a good opportunity of controlling what we can control. Simply just letting it go or waiting until a medication is prescribed is like taking a walk on a short plank. Sooner or later, you’re going to fall. Get it checked periodically and take charge of your plumbing.
See you tomorrow for Day 6 of the 12 Days of Fitness
Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.