It is important to know your blood pressure numbers, because of the effects of abnormal blood pressure. Eating the proper foods and daily exercise can help prevent and /or control high blood pressure or hypertension. Let’s look at the concepts of blood pressure. Blood pressure is measured by the force exerted against the walls of arteries and is dependent upon the heart and resistance of the arteries. Blood is pushed out of the left ventricle of the heart and into the arteries with each beat. Essential nutrients and oxygen are carried by the blood and for these essential nutrients to be carried throughout the body, the blood must be pushed out of the left ventricle, with a force strong enough to keep the blood circulating and moving at a certain speed throughout the body. When blood is pushed from the left ventricle of the heart, it presses against the wall of the arteries. This is the pressure that is measured when your BP is checked. The higher the pressure, the harder your heart has to work. High blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart attack and death.
What is the difference between normal, elevated and high blood pressure?
New guidelines by the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association were given in 2017, as seen in the chart.
American Heart Association (2018): https://www.heart.org/-/media/data-import/downloadables/pe-abh-what-is-high-blood-pressure-ucm_300310.pdf
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2016), 1 in every 3 adults have high blood pressure; a little more than half of the population (54%) have their high blood pressure under control; in 2014, high blood pressure was the primary or contributing cause of death in over 400,000 Americans.
When blood pressure is elevated, there may not be signs and symptoms - it is considered the silent killer. You may have no signs and symptoms, unless it is severe. This may include headache, dizziness and nosebleed. If left untreated, it can lead to stroke, heart attack and kidney damage. Causes or risk factors of hypertension can be related to age, race, family history, smoking, high levels of stress and/or lack or exercise. When blood pressure is abnormally low, called hypotension, it can cause dizziness, confusion, nausea and fainting. In severe cases, hypotension can be life-threatening and lead to heart and kidney complications or shock. The causes of hypotension can range from dehydration to serious medical or surgical disorders. It is important to find out what is causing your low blood pressure so it can be treated.
Eating a diet that is rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits and decreasing the saturated fats and cholesterol can lower your blood pressure by up to 11 mmHg (Mayo clinic, 2016). If you have hypertension, incorporate the DASH diet - the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet. The DASH diet includes a diet of rich fruits, vegetables, nuts, fish, poultry, lean meats and health-hearty fats (Dashdiet.org, 2018). Vegetarian DASH diets are available too! Drinking water has several benefits - water helps to carry nutrients throughout the body, keeps you hydrated and your brain functioning, regulates body temperature and pH balances. Drink at least eight, 8 ounce glasses of water a day. Adding lemon, fruit or vegetables (i.e. cucumbers) to your water will add a delightful taste with healthful benefits! Lack of water can lead to hypotension. Therefore, keeping yourself hydrated will assist in keeping your body system balanced.
A healthy lifestyle should include exercise. Benefits of exercise include lowering the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, weight gain, improving muscular strength and reducing depression. Adults should exercise for 5 hours a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 2 1/2 hours a week of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity (Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 2018). Combining strength training exercises, such as weight lifting or yoga, will make your bones stronger!
Other ways to lower your risk of hypertension is to stop smoking, decrease your alcohol intake (1-2 drinks/day for men and 1 drink/day women) and limit your stress. Smoking constricts your blood vessels, making it harder for your heart to pump blood throughout your body. Alcohol causes dehydration, which can affect your ability to function effectively. Stress is an everyday occurrence, but some stress can be avoided. Stress increases your heart rate and narrows your blood vessels. Learning how to decrease stress and handle stress effectively is important in controlling blood pressure.
Speak with your healthcare providers for additional resources to live a healthy physical and mental lifestyle. This will assist you to live well and be healthy.
Stay Well & Be Healthy!
Johnnita Woods Parker, BSN, RN, NHDP-BC
American Heart Association (2018); https://www.heart.org/-/media/data-import/downloadables/pe-abh-what-is-high-blood-pressure-ucm_300310.pdf
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2018): https//www.cdc.gov/phyicalactivity/basics/index.htm
Dash Diet.org (2018): http//dashdiet.org/default.asp
Mayo Clinic (2018): https//www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/dash-diet/art-20048456