Getting your blood pressure taken at the doctor’s is common practice. They put the cuff on your arm, start pumping the monitor, and wait for a final number.
About 33% of Americans’ blood pressure is too high. But not all fully understand how blood pressure works or what it means for their overall health.
What Do Blood Pressure Numbers Mean?
When you see a blood pressure reading, it will look something like this: 120/80. The top and bottom number will vary per person depending on activity level, diet, stress, age, and sex.
The top number, or systolic pressure, measures the pressure produced in the arteries when your heart beats. This is the maximum pressure caused by the heart.
The bottom number, or diastolic pressure, measures the pressure in the arteries in between heart beats. This is the minimum pressure caused by the heart as it is resting and the arteries are refilling with blood.
A healthy blood pressure level is 120/80 and below. Anything higher is entering prehypertension and high blood pressure range. That means your heart is pumping harder than it should be per beat.
How Does Blood Pressure Work
Blood pressure works by blood flowing through your blood vessels from your heart, creating outward pressure in the veins as it travels throughout the body.
The resistance of the arteries and the pressure of the blood flow from your heart tells what your blood pressure level is.
Just as a hose with running water, pinching it at all will create decreased flow and increase pressure at the point of obstruction. A total cut off will result in zero water flow and more serious pressure at the kink in the hose.
However, with arteries, these pinches or blockages can be fatal or lead to heart disease or stroke from impeding blood flow.
Causes of Heightened Blood Pressure
Blood pressure varies throughout the day, depending on energy output levels, stress, or sitting position.
Exercise heightens blood pressure. Since your heart needs to pump faster to feed your muscles, blood pressure is higher.
Anger and stress also raise blood pressure levels because adrenaline and other hormones are released and temporarily spike your heart rate.
On the other end of the spectrum, sleeping and resting decreases blood pressure due to the lack of need for extra oxygen and less demands on the body and heart.
In these instances, blood pressure is either increased or decreased temporarily. If your blood pressure levels are consistently higher than 120/80, you will need to make some changes as advised by your doctor.
You can loosen your blood vessels with diet and exercise changes. Diets low in sodium, fat, and cholesterol will help you lower blood pressure.
Products that contain l-arginine will also help create nitric oxide in your blood, which naturally relaxing blood vessels and encourages healthier blood flow.