Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Blood Pressure - A Healthy Heart - Part 2

What is blood pressure?
Your heart is like a pump that pumps blood away from your heart to the rest of your body in vessels called arteries. Blood pressure is the force at which blood pushes on the walls of your arteries as it moves around your arteries.

Measuring blood pressure
The heart beats by contracting and relaxing. When contracting, the pressure is called systolic blood pressure. When your heart relaxes between contractions, the pressure is called diastolic blood pressure. Blood pressure is measured as a fraction with systolic blood pressure at the top and diastolic blood pressure at the bottom, like: 120/80. These numbers are measured in units of millimeters of mercury (mmHg)

Your blood pressure varies during the day. Excitement, stress and physical activity can cause a temporary increase in blood pressure - this is normal and totally different from being diagnosed with high blood pressure.

High blood pressure
High blood pressure is also known as hypertension and occurs when your blood exerts a persistent, abnormally high pressure on your arteries during circulation. Having a systolic blood pressure of 140mmHg or more, or a diastolic blood pressure of 190mmHg or more; defines having high blood pressure. <120/<80 is optimal, <130/<85 is normal and 130-139/85-89 is considered high normal. Higher than this, you start getting hypertension.

Why is my blood pressure important?
If not treated, high blood pressure increases your risk of having a heart attack, stroke or kidney problems. High blood pressure can be treated with lifestyle changes or medication.

How to tell if you've got high blood pressure
There usually are no symptoms and you may have had it for a long time but totally unaware of it.
So have your blood pressure measured by a health professional!

Causes of high blood pressure
  • Age - half of all people over 60 have high blood pressure
  • Genetics - It sometimes runs in the family
  • Being overweight, diagnosed with diabetes or having a kidney disease
  • High alcohol and salt intake

Low Blood Pressure
Low blood pressure is also called Hypotension and you are considered having low blood pressure when your blood pressure is lower than 90/60 (systolic/diastolic)
Chronic low blood pressure is not considered a problem unless you show symptoms of dizziness, fainting, fatigue, nausea, blurred vision, dehydration and rapid shallow breathing.
The cause of low blood pressure is not always clear, but it can occur with pregnancy, allergic reactions, diabetes (in some cases), heart problems, severe infection, heat stroke and some liver problems.

Lowering blood pressure
Simple changes in your diet and lifestyle can help lowering blood pressure.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight
  • Avoid smoking
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Reduce your salt intake and choose low-fat dairy products
  • Cut down on alcohol
Adults should have less than 5g a day

Main sources of salt in our diet
  • Cereals and bread
  • Processed foods such as soup, sauses and ready meals
  • Meat products such as bacon, sausages and ham
  • Savory snacks such as crisps and salted nuts
Tips for cutting down on salt
  • Check food labels and choose foods have lower amounts of salt/sodium
  • Multiply sodium by 2.5 to get the salt content
  • Cut down on salty snacks such as crisps, bacon, cheese and processed meals
  • Taste your food before adding salt!
  • Avoid adding salt during cooking - rather use herbs, lemon, spices or garlic to flavour your dishes.
Next I will be posting about: The effects of stress

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