By Jeanette Kimszal, RDN, NLC
While high blood pressure can occur at any age, women over 45 are at a higher risk than other age groups.
Is your ticker in tip top shape? Or do you have no idea?
It is important to know your heart health, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels since heart disease can sometimes have no signs and come on suddenly.
One indication of your heart health is blood pressure control.
Blood pressure is the measure of the blood flowing through as it contracts and constricts inside blood vessel walls. It is measured by two numbers:
- Systolic blood pressure: this is the TOP number that indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your blood vessel walls when the heart beats.
- Diastolic blood pressure: the BOTTOM number shows how much pressure your blood is exerting against your blood vessel walls when at rest (remember diastolic = death = rest)
Together these numbers give your total blood pressure number as a fraction in the following format: systolic / diastolic mm Hg.
So how does your blood pressure stack up?
Normal Blood Pressure
Less than 120/80 mm Hg
When either the top or bottom number is out of range this can be a sign of pre-hypertension. This shows you are on the brink of high blood pressure, which can put you at risk for heart disease.
120-139 / 80-89 mm Hg
Hypertension Stage I
140-159 / 90-99 mm Hg
Hypertension Stage II
160 or higher / 100 or higher mm Hg
The numbers indicating high blood pressure (hypertension stage I or II) is something you should be concerned about. This can put you at serious risk for heart disease.
One thing to note about blood pressure is that it fluctuates throughout the day so it is a good idea to take readings on a daily basis if you have this condition.
So what causes high blood pressure?
- Being over weight or obese
- Large amounts of belly fat (pressure is being put on the blood vessels around the organs in the abdomen causing blood pressure to rise)
- Lack of physical activity
- Too much processed food
- Too much food high in processed salt
- High intake of sugar and refined carbs
- Large alcohol consumption (more than 1-2 drinks a day)
- Older Age
- Family History
- Chronic Kidney Disease
- Adrenal disorder
- Thyroid disorder
- Sleep apnea
There are some people who may be more at risk to develop high blood pressure. These include:
- People with family members who have high blood pressure
- Pregnant women
- Women who take birth control pills
- People over the age of 35
- People who are overweight or obese
- People who are not active
- People who drink alcohol excessively (more than 1-2 drinks a day)
- People who eat too many fatty foods or foods with too much salt
- People who have sleep apnea
The good news is that you have some power to reverse the condition. Some things you can do to combat high blood pressure are:
- Exercise (pending your ability to exercise)
- Cut out sugar and refined carbs – added sugar and refined carbs have been linked to heart disease.
- Strive for no added sugar (this does not include fruit) or only 6 tsp (25 grams) a day
- Learn to deal with stress – stress is a doozy on your blood pressure
- Cut the caffeine – if you have high blood pressure I highly recommend limiting caffeine to one beverage a day until you get your blood pressure down to a normal level
- Ditch the alcohol – cut back to 1 or 2 drinks a day
- Weight loss -even losing just 1-2 lbs a week can help lower your blood pressure
Find out the status of your blood pressure today!
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