It’s easy to think about blood pressure from a one-dimensional standpoint. Sure, they influence heart health. But there are a lot more reasons why your doctor is so focused on those numbers.
Your blood vessels are kind of like the pipes in your house. They feed blood to the whole body, but if the pressure gets too high, the pipes and the things they connect to can be damaged.
That means that blood pressure affects all of your organs. Controlling blood pressure matters to your heart, brain, kidneys, and more.
In short, it’s a really big deal.
Here are some things to remember about your blood pressure.
Think about It: Just because you might not have high blood pressure right now, it doesn’t mean you may never. Adopting a preventative approach to high blood pressure (also called hypertension) might help you avoid it altogether.
Rising blood pressure has no symptoms, so unless you monitor it, you’ll never really know where it is or where it could be going. But left untreated for long enough, your blood vessels and organs could be damaged.
For example, if you’re 60 and have failed to treat high blood pressure, your blood vessels could resemble an 80-year-olds. When it’s spotted early, it can be controlled.
Managing It Protects Your Brain: Bad things can happen if high blood pressure damages blood vessels in the brain. It can lead to a stroke or contribute to dementia.
There is a growing body of research suggesting that dementia is a vascular disease. High blood pressure may cause slight damage to blood vessels throughout the brain. When this damage adds up all over the brain, bad things can happen.
There is also research to suggest that people who keep blood pressure in check (less than 130/80) score better on cognitive function tests.
Pay Attention to Potassium: Sodium is surely a buzzword in the blood pressure conversation. But potassium is just as important. In fact, the sodium/potassium balance may be more important than just sodium.
Potassium helps regulate blood flow and plays a key role in heart health. The problem is that if you’re eating a diet high in processed food, you’re getting a ton of sodium and very little potassium.
Cutting processed food intake and boosting potassium-rich foods, like those featured in the DASH or Mediterranean diet, can help get blood pressure under control.
A Little Can Go a Long Way: If you’re 40- or 50-pounds overweight, you don’t need to lose it all to get a benefit. Significant improvement in blood pressure can be had by losing as little as 10 or 15 pounds.
Incrementally adding activity and healthy food choices to your day can make a big difference in blood pressure and reduce the risk for a host of health problems.