Did you know a normal blood pressure reading is less than 120/80?
Nearly half of American adults have high blood pressure and do not even know it. The fact is, many people with high blood pressure have no symptoms —that is why it is often called the “silent killer.”
What Is High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure is a condition in which the force of blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels is often too high. This puts stress on your heart by making it work harder. When untreated, it can damage your blood vessels, leading to a heart attack, stroke or other health concerns.
Understanding Blood Pressure Readings
There are two numbers in a blood pressure reading:
- Systolic: The top number measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats.
- Diastolic: The bottom number measures the pressure when your heart is at rest.
Normal blood pressure is less than 120/80 mm Hg. Anything above that should be discussed with your provider.
Monitoring Your Blood Pressure
Regularly monitoring your blood pressure is a great way to stay on top of your health. To make sure you get a correct reading, keep these tips in mind:
- Be still. Don’t smoke, drink caffeinated drinks or exercise within 30 minutes of checking your blood pressure. Try to be still at least five minutes before checking your blood pressure.
- Sit correctly. Sit with your back straight and supported and place your feet flat on the floor with your legs uncrossed. Make sure the bottom of the blood pressure cuff is directly above the bend in your elbow and that your arm is supported on a flat surface with your upper arm at heart level.
- Take multiple readings. Take two or three readings, one minute apart, and record the results.
- Don’t take your measurements over clothes. This can cause inaccurate readings.
Lifestyle Habits to Lower Your Blood Pressure
If you have high blood pressure, there are lifestyle changes you can make to lower it and keep it down:
- Watch your weight. If you are overweight, losing just five to 10 pounds is enough to lower your blood pressure.
- Eat a balanced diet. A diet rich in fruits, veggies, whole grains and low-fat dairy can lower your blood pressure by as much as 11 mm Hg.
- Cut back on sodium. Processed foods can contain a lot of sodium. Be sure to check food labels and choose low-sodium alternatives when possible.
- Exercise regularly. Aim for about 30 minutes each day and choose something you enjoy. Whether it is high-intensity training, swimming or a quick walk, exercising on a regular basis can make a big difference.
- Monitor caffeine intake. The effects of caffeine on blood pressure can vary between individuals. Check your blood pressure within 30 minutes of consuming caffeine to see if it is a factor for you.
- Limit alcohol consumption. Drinking too much may not only raise blood pressure, it can prevent the effectiveness of blood pressure medication.
- Do not smoke. Besides increasing your heart rate, the chemicals from cigarettes can damage your artery walls.
- Reduce stress. Try yoga or meditation, take a walk or learn a new hobby. Taking a little “me time” each day can help recharge your body and mind.
- Get plenty of sleep. Aim for seven to nine hours each night. It can help to set a regular sleep schedule and make sure your bedroom is quiet, dark and comfy.
Managing your blood pressure is key in preventing many other health conditions. By monitoring your readings at home, adopting a healthy lifestyle and seeing your provider regularly, you can proactively keep your blood pressure in check.