You’ve likely had your blood pressure checked at every doctor’s appointment in your teen to adult life. The nurse calls out those special numbers and unless you are in the medical field yourself, you trust that whatever he/she said is a good number unless told otherwise. It is a universal teaching that high blood pressure is a leading indicator of, or risk factor to heart issues. Surprisingly, the majority of people do not know what blood pressure truly is, what impacts it, and how it contributes to overall heart health. 

What is blood pressure?

The medical definition of blood pressure is: “the pressure of the blood in the circulatory system, often measured for diagnosis since it is closely related to the force and rate of the heartbeat and the diameter and elasticity of the arterial walls”. Essentially it is determined by the amount of blood pumped by the heart and how easily it flows through your arteries. Blood pressure is produced primarily by the contractions of the heart muscle and is measured by two numbers. The first number is called systolic pressure and refers to the maximum arterial pressure during contraction of the heart. The second number is called diastolic pressure and refers to the blood pressure when your heart muscle is in between beats.

What impacts blood pressure?

There are many factors that contribute to a healthy, or unhealthy blood pressure level. What is deemed a healthy range will also vary based on age and certain medical or life conditions – pregnancy for example. Some factors that impact your blood pressure are: level of exercise, lifestyle habits, diet, weight management, age, genetics, stress, and other underlying medical conditions. To lower and maintain a healthy blood pressure, consider the following lifestyle changes and discuss them with your doctor: 

-Remove high levels of sodium in your diet (Start by not adding salt to your foods)
-Maintain a healthy weight
-Reduce caffeine intake
-Exercise
-Manage stress levels (Through change in environment or stress management techniques)
-Reduce alcohol intake
-If you are a smoker, quit!
-Get enough sleep

If you have done much research on heart disease, you will notice that the lifestyle recommendations to healthy blood pressure align almost identically with heart disease prevention recommendations. This is because they are directly related. 

How Blood Pressure correlates with heart disease. 

When you have high blood pressure, it means your heart is having to work extra hard to pump blood out to the body. This excess strain causes damage within the arteries over time causing them to harden, become narrow, build up of fat, increase cholesterol levels, etc. This damage to your arteries can lead to blood clots that interrupts the flow of blood to the heart thus starving the muscle of oxygen and nutrients it needs to properly function. Other dangers to damaged arteries include stroke, heart attack, kidney failure, heart failure, and even death. 

High blood pressure is called the “Silent Killer” as you may not notice symptoms. If you have a family history of high blood pressure, learn about what a healthy range is for you, take your blood pressure often, begin preventative measures and learn the symptoms. Symptoms of high blood pressure include headaches, shortness of breath, nosebleeds, chest pain, dizziness, visual problems and more. If you suspect you have high blood pressure or show these listed symptoms, see your doctor and discuss your concerns. Dr. Corwin Thomas at CT Cardio is a board certified Interventional Cardiologist serving patients in the Acadiana area. We do on site cardiac testing and self referrals are welcome. Contact us today for an appointment to get and stay heart healthy.