We’re all familiar with the magical Velcro cuff that tightens around our arms and seems to magically determine the status of our blood pressure.
The nurse calls out a set of numbers like “120 over 80” and we’re just supposed to know what to make of it. But unless we ask, most of us have no idea what those numbers mean.
Here, we break down some numbers and facts for you. What is high blood pressure? What do systolic and diastolic mean?
We’re going beyond the Velcro cuff to help you figure out where you stand with your blood pressure, why it is the way it is, and how you can keep your blood pressure going strong.
The amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries is what determines blood pressure.
As your heart pumps blood through your body, it relies on your arteries, veins, and capillaries being open enough to transport the amount of blood being pumped.
If it’s a tight squeeze to get blood through your veins, your heart has to work harder to pump blood, and the pressure against the walls of your arteries is higher.
Blood pressure is measured by two numbers placed in a ratio that looks like this: 117/76 mmHg.
The top number is your systolic blood pressure. This measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats, or contracts.
The bottom number is your diastolic blood pressure—the pressure in your arteries when your heart is resting, or between beats.
Ideally, a healthy blood pressure is a systolic less than 120, and a diastolic less than 80.
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Typically, if you are consistently active, your blood pressure will naturally be lower. Sometimes even lower than the prescribed 120/80 mmHg.
A runner’s blood pressure could even be as low as 110/75. This is normal for active people because their bodies and hearts have learned to pump blood and function more efficiently than sedentary bodies.
According to Mayo Clinic, low blood pressure may only be cause for alarm when it comes with symptoms such as dizziness or fainting. Low blood pressure may be caused by pregnancy, a nutrient-deficient diet, dehydration, infection, or allergic reactions.
There are two types of hypertension: essential, and secondary. Essential hypertension develops in adults over a long period of time.
Secondary hypertension usually has a very sudden onset and occurs due to certain medications, illegal substance abuse, thyroid problems, kidney problems, or alcohol abuse to name a few.
There are all kinds of risk factors such as age, race, family history, obesity, leading a sedentary lifestyle, tobacco use, and alcohol consumption.
Most are familiar with the risks that go hand-in-hand with high blood pressure. High blood pressure puts you at risk for heart attacks, strokes, aneurysms, and more.
Making even small changes to your lifestyle can put you on track for a healthier life, heart, and better blood pressure.