Blood Pressure measures the flow of the body’s blood supply throughout the circulatory system. Our bloodstream delivers nutrients, white blood cells, antibodies, oxygen and more via arteries and veins to vital organs and tissues. The pressure or force of this blood flow is what defines blood pressure and a measurement that runs either above or below normal range is cause for medical monitoring or intervention. Systolic blood pressure (the top number) is when your heart beat pumps blood throughout your body via the arteries to the rest of your body. Systolic pressure measures the force and pressure on your blood vessels.
Diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) is the pressure in the arteries between heart beats. At this time, the heart is refilled with blood and is supplied with oxygen.
Blood pressure guidelines do vary depending on the country. In the U.S., a normal blood pressure reading has a systolic and diastolic number that is below 120/80.
Elevated blood pressure stands at 120-129 systolic
Stage 1 Hypertension (High blood pressure) ranges from 130-139 systolic, diastolic 80-89
Stage 2 Hypertension is 140+ systolic, diastolic 90 or more
A systolic reading of 180 or more is considered a hypertensive crisis and requires immediate medical attention
Chronic High Blood Pressure places strain on the arterial walls causing damage. In damaged arterial walls, plaque can form, harden, and ultimately restrict blood flow. Though high blood pressure is often without obvious symptoms, it puts you at greater risk for heart attacks, strokes, and potential kidney damage.
High blood pressure is largely brought about by lifestyle factors and age. Being overweight, consuming a poor diet (high in sodium and sugar), stress, and not getting enough physical activity are inextricably linked to high blood pressure.
Low Blood Pressure (hypotension) is characterized by readings lower than 90 systolic or 60 diastolic. Low blood pressure can also be symptomless, but when symptoms do present themselves they can cause fainting, dizziness, blurred vision, and nausea. Low blood pressure can also bring about severe symptoms such a shock, shallow breathing, and a weak pulse. Dehydration, heat exhaustion, blood loss, infections, and certain medications like water pills and beta blockers can all bring about low blood pressure.
Treatment: Maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle is the best way to stabilize your blood pressure levels. Losing just 7-10 percent of your body weight if you’re overweight can normalize blood pressure and cut the risks of developing heart disease by over 50 percent. Ensuring that you’re getting enough magnesium, calcium, and potassium in your diet is also key, and this can be done via a diet low in sodium, rich in healthy fats, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Diets like Meditteranean and the DASH diet can help protect your arteries against damage and minimize plaque build up. A physician might suggest a change in lifestyle as well as prescribe certain medications such as diuretics, beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, alpha blockers, calcium channel blockers, and vasodilators among others.