How healthy is your blood pressure? And exactly what causes high blood pressure, anyway? It rises with each and every heartbeat and then falls as your heart relaxes between beats. It can change from minute to minute with exercise, stress, sleep, even your posture.
The important thing is, you want to keep it in the healthy range: Less than 120/80 mm Hg – less than 120 systolic and less than 80 diastolic – for adults age 20 and over. Most Americans, though, are reading closer to 140/90 or higher, which puts them in the high blood pressure range.
That news is grim. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that the proportion of Americans reporting they have high blood pressure rose nearly 10 percent from 2005 to 2009. High blood pressure, or hypertension, affects nearly one-third of Americans. And nearly half of those cases are out of control, health officials say. So we’re doing something wrong.
Why is it dangerous? Like the pipes running through your house, your arteries can fail when they’re under too much pressure. Then boom – high blood pressure can take you to an early grave. It’s a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke. And it also puts you at risk for the following conditions that won’t make your life better, that’s for certain:
Both men and women are about equal when it comes to the likelihood of developing high blood pressure, but their risks vary at different ages. More men are affected than women before age 64. At 65 and over, more women than men have high blood pressure.
Given the sheer numbers of people who have high blood pressure, it’s important to understand the causes of blood pressure issues, reduce your risk and start checking your blood pressure regularly. Most people with high blood pressure don’t even know they have it because it’s considered a “silent killer” – there are no signs or symptoms. A few people early on may have dull headaches, minor dizzy spells or a few more nosebleeds than usual; but these symptoms don’t often come up until the disease reaches the later, life-threatening stage.
Here’s what’s putting you at risk. Consider this a call-to-action to turn your habits around:
This is where age comes in. The cumulative effects of an unhealthy lifestyle, with many of the factors noted above, can build up and put you in the high blood pressure range. High blood pressure due to stress alone can send it soaring. So imagine what that’s like day-in and day-out for your poor arteries over the years…
Also note that statistics show family history plays a role. You are at higher risk of being in the high blood pressure range if other members of your family have or have had high blood pressure.
Some people, too, may have high blood pressure that is linked to another medical condition, such as diabetes or kidney problems. Often treatment for these other conditions will bring their blood pressure back down from the high blood pressure range to healthy control.
There are natural, healthy ways to controlling blood pressure before turning to prescription medication. The three-pronged approach of a healthy diet, weight management and exercise is where you want to start. In fact, if you do require medication after you’ve developed a heart-healthy lifestyle, exercise makes blood pressure medication more effective. Good to know!
Here are good strategies to get you on your way to controlling blood pressure:
Strategy 1. Get active
To balance your salt, make sure to get a lot more potassium, from foods like apricots, avocado, bananas, cantaloupe, honeydew, kiwis, lima beans, oranges, potatoes, prunes and squash. Tasty, right?
Watch your sugar intake, too. Sugar messes with your blood sugar levels; elevated insulin puts you at risk for diabetes, but it’s also linked with increased triglycerides, bad cholesterol and high blood pressure. Sugar also has a hand in atherosclerosis, where sticky material collects along the walls of the arteries. That narrows the arteries and increases the pressure.
With these good habits well in hand, your heart will be in good care. Controlling blood pressure, and keeping yourself well out of the high blood pressure range, will significantly reduce your risk of the big ones: Heart attack and stroke. The side benefit to all this? Your overall health and energy will flourish. It’s worth putting in the work.
Your arteries have weak spots, especially in the thin capillaries. And if the pressure goes beyond a certain point, the capillaries burst, leading to symptoms like nose bleeds and red eyes. If the capillaries in important organs like the brain and heart burst, it leads to more severe, even fatal consequences. Which is why maintaining blood pressure is so important. And since it’s something that has to be done all your life, it is better to maintain it without drugs. Here’s how.
Find yourself in the dairy aisle considering a good yogurt? The choices can be a little overwhelming – with extra-creamy and fancy fruit and coffee flavors – but one thing is for certain: Yogurt does a body good! Yogurt is known as a superstar for digestive health, proteins, and new research highlights yogurt for preventing high blood pressure. Find out how much you need here.