by Anita Nakamura, LPN
Blood pressure is the "force or tension of blood that is pumped through the artery wall." This force is created by the heart.
A blood pressure reading consists of a top and bottom number. The top number (systolic pressure) is the pressure in the arteries caused by the heart beats. The bottom number (diastolic pressure) is when the heart is resting between heart beats.
Normal blood pressure (B/P) is 138/88 and lower. Borderline B/P is 140/90 to 159/109, and high blood pressure is anything over 160/110. Hypertension is another name for high blood pressure. Hypertension puts a strain on the heart as it is pumping blood through the arteries. This is unhealthy because the heart can become enlarged and arteries can become scarred and lose elasticity (making it difficult to carry blood to the tissues and organs). Hypertension can also lead to the formation of blood clots that can lodge in an artery. Blood clots are one of several causes of heart attacks and strokes.
Controllable measures that can help reduce risk of hypertension:
* People who are obese should try to reduce their weight by eating smaller portions of foods and exercising daily (walking is ideal).
* Reducing salt consumption can lower blood pressure in some individuals.
* Reduce caffeine intake since it constricts the blood vessels and elevates blood pressure.
* Smoking also increases the risk of having coronary heart disease if you already have hypertension.
* Eating a diet high in fiber leads to a fairly consistent B/P lowering effect and it also reduces blood cholesterol.
* Stress has an overwhelming effect on your blood pressure. Finding an effective way of coping with stresses will be beneficial to you and your health.
Factors that cannot be changed are your age, race, heredity, and sex.
Hypertension can go unnoticed for years because there is no specific symptom or warning signs. The only way to know whether or not you have hypertension is to have regular checkups and/or annual physical exams. Remember that hypertension, if untreated, can lead to strokes, heart failure, kidney failure, heart attack and maybe even death.