What is Blood Pressure and When Should You Start Monitoring Yours?

Each time your heart beats, blood pumps out of your heart through the arteries and blood vessels to circulate throughout your body. The pressure that your blood exerts on the walls of your blood vessels is your blood pressure and it is measured in two sets of numbers.

The top number refers to the systolic blood pressure, or the pressure as your heart beats while pumping blood. The bottom number is the diastolic pressure or the pressure of the heart while at rest in between beats.

Table of Contents

  • 1 Normal Blood Pressure
  • 2 High Blood Pressure
  • 3 High Blood Pressure Risks
  • 4 Monitoring Blood Pressure
    • 4.1 How often should you check blood pressure?
  • 5 Managing High Blood Pressure
  • 6 Complications of High Blood Pressure

Normal Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is indicated in millimeters of mercury or mm/Hg, where the normal reading is anything less than 120 systolic over 80 diastolic. A blood pressure that is between 120 to 129 mmHg systolic and less than 80 mmHg diastolic is considered elevated according to the new guidelines released by the American Heart Association (AHA).

It’s normal, however, for the blood pressure to rise when doing any form of physical activity and when experiencing various emotions. Once the activity stops and the feelings subside, the blood pressure usually returns to its normal range.

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, which is also known as HBP or hypertension, happens when your systolic blood pressure rises above 130 or your diastolic above 80. In the United States, one in three adults develop high blood pressure but only 54 percent make it a point to keep it under control.

The problem with high blood pressure is that it doesn’t manifest as physical symptoms and there is no cure to rid yourself of the condition completely. It can also worsen due to aging, or poor diet and lifestyle, hence medical experts call the disease a silent killer.

High Blood Pressure Risks

You could be at risk for high blood pressure if you have been diagnosed with diabetes, kidney disease, and obesity. Apart from these three conditions, you also raise your risk for HBP if you:

  • Smoke or expose yourself to second-hand smoke

  • Drink alcohol

  • Enjoy eating foods with a high sodium content

  • Lack potassium in your diet

  • Lack physical activities

  • Have a history of hypertension in the family

  • Have high levels of cholesterol

  • Take other medications

Sometimes, you can also trigger high blood pressure due to problems at work and social relationships. Your heart is forced to work double time anytime your body is in distress, whether due to physical or emotional stressors, resulting in an increase in blood pressure.

Monitoring Blood Pressure

Because of the blood pressure’s unpredictability in affecting both younger and older adults, experts recommend regularly self-monitoring. In 2015, experts learned that many young adults appear to have mild blood pressure elevations that increases the risk of heart disease by the time they reach middle age, so they need to monitor as well.

Fortunately, it’s easy to measure blood pressure using the right apparatus. According to Harvard cardiologist Dr. Deepak Bhatt, it’s easier to manage HBP if you frequently measure your blood pressure at home.

How often should you check blood pressure?

If you have high blood pressure, you may consider checking your blood pressure two times a day; specifically, before you get up to start your day and before you retire to bed in the evening. Gradually, and as you learn to manage your blood pressure levels, you can monitor weekly or bi-weekly.

You must be in complete rest when you’re measuring your blood pressure. Refrain from drinking coffee or smoking a cigarette at least 30 minutes prior to monitoring.

Managing High Blood Pressure

Following a diagnosis, your doctor might recommend a complete shift in lifestyle, especially if you have plenty of risk factors. This might entail:

  • Regular exercises to lose and maintain an ideal weight

  • A change in diet. Incorporate potassium-rich foods into your meal such as bananas, apples, fish, legumes, and whole grains

  • Elimination of alcohol and cigarettes

  • Learning methods to handle stress, such as yoga or tai chi, or simply listening to calming music

If lifestyle changes, however, aren’t enough to lower your blood pressure, then the doctors may prescribe maintenance medications like beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, and diuretics to keep your blood pressure in normal level.

Complications of High Blood Pressure

When uncontrolled and unmanaged, high blood pressure can lead to complications that can affect your general health, or worse, end your life; these include:

  • Damaged arteries that limit the flow of blood in your body

  • An aneurysm or a weak spot in your artery that might lead to internal bleeding

  • Coronary heart disease

  • Heart failure

  • Stroke

  • Dementia

  • Kidney diseases

  • Eye nerve damage

  • Sexual dysfunction

High blood pressure might also complicate pregnancy and lead to premature birth. In some cases, the mother can actually develop high blood pressure because of the pregnancy itself.

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