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Healthy blood pressure basics

17 January, 2012

We’re two weeks into the new year, and we hope everyone who made resolutions is working hard and on the path to success! We asked our Facebook fans to share some of their hopes for 2012, and a common thread through the responses was a commitment to get healthier and improving both physically and spiritually.

A frequent goal for fit living is to achieve or maintain a healthy blood pressure.  Healthy blood pressure is a sign of a strong circulatory system, which means that your heart and blood vessels are well-equipped to fuel your body with both oxygen and nutrients.

But what exactly is healthy blood pressure? And what is the dividing line between healthy blood pressure and blood pressure that is too high?

Blood pressure measures both how hard the heart has to work in order to pump blood to the body and the stress on the blood vessels when the heart is at rest. The measurement of blood pressure is two numbers, and the unit of measurement is millimeters of mercury. This recalls the original way blood pressure was calculated--with instrument called a sphygmometer, filled with mercury like a thermometer. (Now many blood pressure readings are done with digital blood pressure cuffs.)

The top number of the blood pressure reading, called the systolic, measures the pressure exerted on the arteries when the heart pumps. The bottom number, called the diastolic, measures the pressure when the heart is at rest. An ideal blood pressure reading is about 120/80. High blood pressure begins at 140/90, but regular readings of greater than 120/80 can begin to have a detrimental effect on overall health.

Many factors, both short-term and long-term, can influence blood pressure, including:

  • The body’s position when the reading is taken
  • Eating habits
  • Lifestyle choices, such as smoking
  • Physical or psychological stress
  • Race
  • Underlying illnesses or medical conditions, such as diabetes

Although many people experience rising blood pressure as they age, it is not an inevitable part of growing older! It means that the heart and blood vessels are working harder than they should, and the stress on them can have negatives effects on overall health.

So, what can you do? Any steps you take towards a healthier lifestyle should have a positive impact on your blood pressure reading. Try:

  • Adding (or increasing) exercise
  • Eating healthier
  • Keeping firm control of your pre-existing medical conditions
  • Quitting smoking
  • Reducing stress

Support your health with good circulation and blood pressure within normal limits. You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve!

 
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