The Ups & Downs of Blood Pressure

The Ups & Downs of Blood Pressure


Is my blood pressure high?

I get asked this question time and again: what is considered normal blood pressure and what is high? Generally speaking, in healthy adults a normal blood pressure (BP) is less than 120 systolic (the pressure on the arteries as the heart contracts (squeezes)), and less than 80 diastolic (the pressure on the vessels as the heart relaxes). In common terms this BP would be expressed as 120 over 80. We call it high blood pressure or hypertension if the BP is greater than 140 systolic and greater than 90 diastolic.

What causes high blood pressure?

Genetics plays an important role. Obesity, weight gain, excessive alcohol use, high cholesterol, excessive use of salt (sodium), not enough activity and a sedentary lifestyle, and type A or having an aggressive personality have all been linked to high blood pressure. Medications such as oral contraceptive pills, certain cold remedies, anti-inflammatory drugs and many other common medications can increase blood pressure. Also certain medical conditions such as kidney disease, thyroid and adrenal gland disorders, and sleep apnea can lead to secondary hypertension.

Why is knowing my blood pressure important?

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Also, untreated hypertension can lead to damage to the eyes and kidneys.

What should I do if my blood pressure is high?

Eat less salt. Most patients don’t realize the high salt content of common foods like certain types of breads and canned soups. Be sure to read labels and choose items with lower sodium content. Eat more servings of vegetables and fruits. Limit the amount of alcohol you consume. Try to get some cardio-exercise into your weekly schedule. And try to decrease your stress level. (Yeah right! That’s easier said than done!) If you can you set aside 15 minutes in your day here is a simple meditation exercise to relax your mind and reduce your stress: sit in a quiet place, close your eyes and take slow deep breaths in and out; meditate on peace (choose a person, place or object that makes you feel calm and happy).  I believe that a peaceful and strong internal environment is as essential to a woman’s survival and success as is her external environment.

Keep track of your BP numbers and follow your doctor’s recommendations. You can check your BP with your own blood pressure cuff if you have one, or you can check it by using the free automatic blood pressure monitor available at many large pharmacies. Write down your numbers in a log book and show it to your doctor when you go for your appointment.  Discuss your blood pressure goals with your doctor and write it down. If you are taking medication to lower your BP, don’t forget to take your medication and report any side effects or concerns to your doctor.

Almost 30% of the US population is reported to have high blood pressure. Take control of your blood pressure and work towards a healthier you by adopting healthy habits and setting the right goals.

Dr. Iyer is a Internal Medicine physician in VMC’s Kent Clinic, located at at 24920 104th Ave SE in Kent. Phone: 253.395.2000.

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