By Betty Murray
Do you know what your blood pressure is? Knowing your score is important in maintaining your health.
Blood pressure is generally recorded as two numbers in ratio form. The top number— systolic pressure—is a measure of the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats (when the heart muscle is contracting). The bottom number in the ratio—diastolic blood pressure—is a measure of the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats (when the heart muscle is resting).
What should my blood pressure be?
This chart reflects the various blood pressure categories as defined by the American Heart Association.
Adults 20 and older should have their blood pressure checked at their regular healthcare checkups every one to two years, unless you are known to have low or high blood pressure, in which case your doctor may want to monitor your numbers more closely.
Systolic blood pressure is generally of more concern to doctors, as it is systolic pressure that is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease in people over 50. It is typical for this number to rise steadily with age, but a healthy individual should be able to maintain a systolic blood pressure below 140.
What are the dangers of high blood pressure?
High blood pressure has been identified with increased risk of heart attack, heart disease, and stroke. Due to these serious risks associated with high blood pressure, if you consistently have higher than normal readings, you should speak to your doctor about treatment.
There are several risk factors for high blood pressure, including:
• Race — African-Americans are at the highest risk for high blood pressure.
• Age — More men age 45 and under have high blood pressure than women in the same age group, however. women age 65 and older are at a higher risk for high blood pressure than men. Though rare, children can also develop hypertension.
• Family history — If you have a close relative who has high blood pressure, you are more likely to develop high blood pressure. Be sure your healthcare provider is aware of your family history.
• Poor diet — A diet that is high in salt has been linked to high blood pressure. Consuming high amounts of calories, fat, and sugar content can increase your chances of obesity, which is also a risk factor for high blood pressure.
• Weight — Being overweight increase your risk of high blood pressure. Losing just 10 to 20 pounds can lower your risk of high blood pressure and heart disease.
• Alcohol — Regular, heavy alcohol use significantly increases your risk for high blood pressure.
Stress, smoking, and sleep apnea may also be connected to high blood pressure, although science has not proven these factors to be a cause of high blood pressure.
It’s important to know that a single high blood pressure reading does not mean you have pre-hypertension or hypertension, but consistently high readings over time might be an indicator that treatment is needed.
For more information on high blood pressure, click here.
What are the dangers of low blood pressure?
Unless you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, low blood pressure is generally no reason to be concerned.
• Dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting
• Lack of concentration
• Blurred vision
• Rapid, shallow breathing
• Cold, clammy, or pale skin
There are several conditions that may cause low blood pressure, including:
• Prolonged bed rest
• Decreased blood volume
• Certain medications
• Heart or endocrine problems
• Severe infection
• Allergic reaction
• Nutritional deficiencies
For more information on low blood pressure, click here.
Betty Murray, CN, HHC, RYT is a Certified Nutritionist & Holistic Health Counselor, founder of the Dallas-based integrative medical center, Wellness and founder of the Metabolic Blueprint wellness program. Betty’s nutrition counseling practice specializes in metabolic and digestive disorders and weight loss resistance. A master of the biochemistry of the body, Betty teaches her clients how to utilize nutritional interventions to improve their health. Betty is a member of the Institute of Functional Medicine and the National Association of Nutrition Professionals.