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Blood Pressure 101

What it is?
On average, your heart pumps over 90,000 times a day. With each contraction, the heart pumps blood into the arteries that carry the blood to rest of the body. Blood pressure is defined as the force blood exerts against the artery walls. Systolic pressure is the force exerted as the heart is contracting and diastolic pressure is the measured force between heartbeats . That is why you see your blood pressure expressed as two numbers; systolic pressure is the first number and diastolic is the second. Ideal blood pressure readings should be less than 120/80.

Why does the doctor check my blood pressure?
Approximately 30% of people with elevated blood pressure are completely unaware of it . When blood pressure is consistently elevated above 140/90 excess strain is placed on your heart and arteries that carry blood throughout your body . Eventually the arteries can clog or form clots resulting in a heart attack, stroke, heart failure, or kidney failure.

What causes Hypertension?
Hypertension is typically caused by controllable factors such as obesity, poor diet, excessive salt or alcohol intake, lack of physical activity, or stress. Sometimes it is caused by uncontrollable factors like genetics, age, race, and family history.

What can I do to lower my blood pressure?
Regardless of whether your hypertension is caused by controllable or uncontrollable factors, the single best thing you can do to lower your blood pressure is to increase physical activity. Physical activity reduces body weight, lower stress levels, and improves cardiovascular fitness. Reducing sodium in your diet is also an effective way to lower blood pressure for many people
Sometimes medication is required along with lifestyle changes. Your primary care physician can discuss all treatment options with you and determine what course of action is best for you.

Hypertension is called the silent killer because so many who have it don’t know it until it is too late. Regular physical exams and comprehensive cardiovascular fitness assessments like the Hoag Executive Health Physical can help identify hypertension and provide you with the tools to manage it effectively.

Written by,
Dr. Josette Taglieri