Blood Pressure Basics

By Dr. Beverly Butler

When was the last time you went to the doctor?

Blood pressure checks are a regular exam done when you go to the doctor. Basically the top number (systolic) is the max pressure your heart produces with contraction (at rest). The bottom number (diastolic) represents the heart relaxing to fill chambers.

High Blood pressure has been dubbed as the “silent killer” for good reason. Our hearts beat automatically, we don’t need to think about it. And our hearts will work overtime for us. But if we don’t pay attention and allow our blood pressure to rise too high over time it can lead to devastating results including cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, stroke, peripheral vascular disease, and end organ damage.

High Blood pressure is defined as readings over 140/90, prehypertention is anything between 120/80 and 140/90. There are also other concerns associated with age and risk factors, for instance, isolated systolic hypertension is of concern for the elderly (larger difference between top and bottom numbers). Also, recent studies show that the difference in pressures between the right and left arms can be associated with disease risk.

What does this all mean? How can you avoid problems with high blood pressure? It is important to make sure you see the doctor at least once a year and have a checkup done. Tell your doctor about your family medical history and ask questions about your own risks. If you are younger, know that it is important to follow a healthy lifestyle now so that in the future (when hardened arteries are more prominent) you can stave off any negative influences and live a longer healthier prescription-drug free life. If you are older, know that there is no “too late” to incorporate healthy lifestyle changes for heart health.

What helps keep your blood pressure healthy?

  • Ideal weight
  • Stress Reduction (adequate sleep, time to enjoy life, meditation, prayer, acupuncture)
  • Exercise (regular, 3-5 times a week 30 minutes or more)
  • Plant based foods high in nutrient content, lean proteins, and avoiding trans fats
  • Specific minerals such as magnesium and potassium at the right dose for you
  • Omega 3 fatty acids (!)

*Talk with your doctor before implementing the above suggestions, especially if you are on medications or have already been diagnosed with hypertension.

While we may feel “fine” going to the doctor at least once a year is important to review your health history, risk factors, healthful or lack of healthful practices. Working with a naturopath, health coach, or other lifestyle/health educator can help to target your needs as well as keep you motivated in keeping healthy habits.

For more information:

Oh, and If you suspect high blood pressure or you have high blood pressure it may be helpful to get yourself a home cuff to monitor your own blood pressure. You can then identify what triggers your high readings to report to your physician. They have them on Amazon- patients seem to like the Omron cuffs, as they are easy to use and relatively inexpensive.

Take Care,

Dr Butler

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