The human heart creates a pressure within the circulatory system every time it beats. This pressure pushes blood through the body so the tissues and organs can receive the oxygen they need. Some people experience periods where their blood pressure is too high or too low. When blood pressure is outside of its normal range, serious physiological issues can follow. Keeping our blood pressure at a normal level is an important part of keeping our bodies functioning properly.
There are many automatic machines that make measuring blood pressure simple, but not everyone has access to them. If a machine isn’t available, it is possible to measure blood pressure manually. The individual performing the measurements should place the cuff around the bicep. Rest the arm on a level surface with the palm facing upwards. Inflate the cuff until the dial reads 20 to 30 mm Hg above the normal blood pressure level. Then, place a stethoscope into the crease of the elbow, on the inside of the arm. The person listening to the stethoscope is listening for the whooshing noise of blood flowing. Once detected, look at the dial and record the number. When the noise ends, record that number as well. The first number is diastolic and the second number is systolic blood pressure.
When measuring blood pressure, the machine or doctor will report two numbers. The top number is systolic blood pressure -- it represents the pressure in the blood vessels when the heart beats. The bottom number is diastolic blood pressure, the pressure in between beats when the heart is resting. The mm Hg measurement stands for millimeters of mercury. The first accurate pressure gauges used mercury, but the unit of measure remained even when mercury fell out of use.
Doctors consider blood pressure levels under 120/80 and above 90/60 mm Hg to be normal. People with levels below 90/60 have low blood pressure. Between 120/80 and 140/90 is still seen as normal, but high, and doctors may diagnose such individuals as having pre-high blood pressure. In such cases, they may recommend the patients take actions to reduce blood pressure before a severe condition develops. Any measurement over 140/90 is high blood pressure or hypertension and may lead to medical issues.
To properly measure blood pressure over a period, doctors recommend checking throughout the day and recording the results. Following these interval checks, the person should measure their blood pressure every day at the time when they recorded the highest number on the first day. The arm should rest in the same position each time, and people should avoid doing exercise or drinking caffeinated beverages half an hour before. It is also important to measure blood pressure whenever symptoms such as lightheadedness occur.
Many foods and drinks can increase blood pressure if eaten in excess. Sodium, in particular, is notorious for raising blood pressure. Potassium weakens the effects of sodium. Individuals can eat bananas, avocados, and many other fruits and vegetables to gain potassium. Avoiding fatty foods and processed carbohydrates can also significantly lower blood pressure. Making such changes should result in a blood pressure decrease of around 10 mm Hg. For those dedicated to achieving lower blood pressure through diet, a food diary that help directly monitor eating habits.
Almost any form of physical exercise can help maintain proper blood pressure levels. Being active for 150 minutes a week is all it takes. Doctors view aerobic exercise as the most efficient choice to manage blood pressure, so running, walking, cycling, and swimming are all possible options. Some people perform strength training alongside their aerobic exercises. Doctors and personal trainers may be able to recommend routines specifically for managing blood pressure.
Alcohol can dramatically increase blood pressure if consumed in excess. A person who drinks heavily in a single sitting will temporarily increase their blood pressure levels. These pressure levels can become permanent if heavy drinking continues. To maintain healthy blood pressure levels, the maximum quantity of alcoholic drinks per day for people under 65 is two for men and one for women. All people over 65 should have only one drink per day. Alcohol can also lead to weight gain, adversely affects blood pressure.
Stress is another large contributor to abnormal blood pressure. People experiencing consistent high stress may want to reduce stress by adopting yoga or meditation routines. Even something as simple as listening to music has been linking to lower stress and lower blood pressure. Reactions to stress differ widely, and each person should base their management methods on their personal needs.
Oddly enough, blood pressure can change with the weather. Blood pressure is reportedly higher in the winter and lowers during the summer. Cold temperatures narrow the blood vessels, and narrow vessels require more pressure to move the blood through the body. Humidity, wind, and even atmospheric pressure can all affect blood pressure. Maintaining healthy body and home temperatures can ensure blood pressure levels stay in the ideal range.
Studies have disproven many myths and beliefs about blood pressure over the years. Many people believe the most prominent myth that they should drink red wine regularly because it is good for the heart. Doctors discourage heavy drinking of any alcohol, even red wine, for heart and blood-related issues. Another myth is that kosher or sea salt contains less sodium than normal table salt. All three of these salts have identical sodium levels: 40%. Doctors can clear up any misconceptions or answer any questions about blood pressure.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.