May is such a fun month with all of the hustle and bustle of spring sports and school nearing the end, wedding and graduation season kicking off and holidays such as Mother’s Day and Memorial Day. Did you also know that May is also known for “Blood Pressure Awareness” month?
Blood pressure is the measurement of the pressure exerted on your blood vessels when your heart beats (systolic, or the “top number”), and the pressure exerted on the same blood vessels when your heart is filling or resting between beats (diastolic or the “bottom number”). Blood pressure can change minute by minute, and is determined by many different factors, including age, genetic history, diet, exercise, smoking, obesity, stress and other health ailments.
In a perfect world, and according to the CDC (your doctor may have a little different recommendations), blood pressure should be under 120/80. When we see this number creeping up higher and higher, nearing the 140/90 and above range, health concerns may arise and your doctor may encourage you to begin some tactics to help keep the number low.
Having high blood pressure is one of those things that can be scary because you don’t necessarily ‘feel’ that you have high blood pressure, but it can cause havoc in your body over time. High blood pressure can also contribute to other scary health risks such as heart attack and strokes. For more information on health risks associated with high blood pressure visit the American Heart Association.
Diet and nutrition, if you haven’t noticed from many of the other health blogs, is something that can positively affect your health in a multitude of ways, and blood pressure is no exception. By eating a well-balanced diet that consists of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and low-fat dairy, this will help to keep your weight in check or help you lose weight (which will help your blood pressure numbers). Diets that are high in sodium tend to cause a person’s blood pressure to go up, so paying close attention to salt intake is also vital with one’s diet. Processed food and meats, chips and bagged snacks, and many canned items are notorious for having extra salt added that can be blamed for increased blood pressure numbers. Fort HealthCare offers many different resources regarding diet, nutrition, recipes and hypertension articles that can help you find what works best for you, and to help keep the blood pressure in check.
One of my favorite things in the entire world! Much like diet, exercise helps our body function the best it can, and will help control your blood pressure numbers. A great starting point is to aim for 30 minutes of moderate physical activity daily, and to strive for most days of the week. Your doctor can give you the best recommendations for exercise if you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, but exercises such as walking, biking, hiking, swimming and various fitness classes are a great way to get your heart pumping, blood moving and increasing your cardiovascular endurance which in turn will keep your body happy. Exercise can be done with a friend to help keep you motivated AND to help make it fun! Fort HealthCare offers many different fitness class options, and there are lots of available gyms and programs in the surrounding area—find what works for you!
Stress is another culprit of high blood pressure, and can keep your numbers elevated. I know this to be personally true with my own blood pressure. Between my fiancé switching jobs, standing up in 2 weddings, planning my own wedding, AND buying a house within a 2 month time period—my stress level is crying “uncle!” and my blood pressure has been elevated.
Stress is one of those things that we all have in our lives, and it negatively affects most of our body systems. When our body is stressed, it releases a bunch of hormones (“Fight or flight” syndrome) to help counteract whatever is stressing the body out. Our body is designed to deal with stress periodically, with breaks in-between, but not to be at a ‘high stress state’ constantly with the hormones running crazy.
It’s important to find healthy coping mechanisms that can help bring down our heart rate and blood pressure, and to give our hormone-producing body system a break! This varies between person to person, but exercise, reading, getting a massage, talking with a friend, meditation, yoga, or even taking a bubble bath are all ways that may help you cope with stress. The main message is to find what works for you, and to practice stress-management techniques when you’re experiencing times of stress.
Having genetically high disposed blood pressure can sometimes be hard to manage. However, but we have to remember that the body we have is the only one we’re going to have, and we need to do everything in our power to make sure we take care of it. The controllable factors such as diet, exercise, stress-management and avoiding unhealthy habits, such as smoking, are all important when talking about health. Make sure to talk with your doctor about what you can do to prevent high blood pressure, or what your options are if you have been diagnosed.
Until next time!