A few months ago, some friends came over for cocktails and appetizers. Don’t ask me how, but somehow my iHealth blood pressure monitor came out and we were all taking our blood pressures. All of a sudden it became a competition as we were all trying to have the lowest blood pressure. Yes, I know this sounds a little strange. No, I am not recommending inviting your friends over for a blood pressure party. It did, however, open the eyes of a few friends who needed some follow-up with their doctors. We all know that high blood pressure is dangerous and can significantly affect our cardiovascular health. I personally like to know the hows and whys. Physiologically, what is going on in our bodies when our blood pressure is high? What is high blood pressure and what does it do to affect our hearts adversely? How high is too high?
Blood pressure is the force pushing outwards on your arterial walls. Arteries are made of muscle with some flexible tissue. When blood is pumped through the arteries, it can stretch the arterial wall. The harder the blood pumps, the more your arteries stretch to make the blood flow through with ease. This pressure on the arteries can cause damage over time. First of all, this overstretching can create weaknesses in the blood vessels, making them susceptible to rupture. Strokes and aneurysms occur when blood vessels rupture. Secondly, the stretching can cause tiny tears in the blood vessels. These tears start to form a net-like structure that is prone to catching debris such as cholesterol or blood cells. If this blockage happens in a vessel leading to the heart or brain, it can cause a stroke or heart attack by cutting off the supply of oxygen to these organs. Tissue and organ damage from narrowed and blocked arteries can occur. Even if it is not a complete blockage, damage may still occur as the tissues and organs do not get an adequate supply of oxygen. This causes them to become weak. With the heart, it can cause the vessels and valves to become weak as the heart has to pump harder to get the necessary nutrients throughout your system. This can lead to kidney failure, heart attack and heart failure, stroke and other health consequences.
So how high is too high? Damage can begin in the prehypertensive stage. See the chart to see where your blood pressure falls. If you don’t know what your blood pressure it, FIND OUT!
When you get your blood pressure checked and it is, say, 125/85, this is when you need to get a blood pressure cuff and track your blood pressure. Which leads me to the my favorite part of this blog which is my endorsement of the iHealth blood pressure monitor. This device is awesome!
It works with your iphone or ipad. It takes your blood pressure and keeps track of it! You can bring this to your physician’s office and show them a month’s (or more) of blood pressure data. Check it out at http://www.ihealthlabs.com/blood-pressure-dock-feature_31htm. I give this 5 stars. You can also download the information onto your computer. I have had mine for about three years. It works great. You can keep stats on more than one person. My husband and I both use it. He is currently on blood pressure medication. My blood pressure is in the prehypertensive stage. Given my family history, there is a good chance I will eventually be on medication, too. I highly recommend this as a way to keep track of your blood pressure. Maybe a good Christmas gift? You can tell you’re getting old when this is considered “a great Christmas gift” for that special person in your life!
Three things you can do right away to try to lower your blood pressure are:
- Lose the salt shaker – try to limit sodium consumption to no more than 1500 mg/day. Not easy to do.
- Lose weight! If your BMI is greater than 25, make some changes in your diet to help shed some extra pounds.
- Lose the cigarettes – studies show blood pressure in smokers is significantly higher than in non-smokers.
I am not saying these things are easy to do. Pick one and work on it. If your doctor says you need medication, fill that prescription and take it! Don’t be “too proud” to take medication. That is no badge of honor and many people think it is. If you happen to be lucky enough to not need any medication as you get older, consider it a blessing. Although a person’s lifestyle may have something to do with it, there is a good chance they don’t have a genetic disposition to certain health conditions. Anyway, that is an aside. Just take your medicine. I’m not saying don’t ask questions to your doctor. I’m not saying don’t see if you can make some changes with diet and exercise first. I am saying there will come a point when you may not be able to control your blood pressure with diet and exercise alone.
How high is too high? If your 120/80 blood pressure starts creeping up, that is too high. I don’t want to be dramatic but there is a reason why high blood pressure is often called the “silent killer.” It often has no outward signs or symptoms. My mantra is always BE AWARE of YOUR body and the best ways to take care of YOU. Know your blood pressure. Visit your doctor. Don’t ignore your health.