Think of high blood pressure and you might think of red-faced angry people with steam coming out of their ears right before they clutch their chest and have a heart attack. It’s a classic image but not an entirely accurate one. High blood pressure certainly does place you at higher risk of a heart attack, but there is a lot more to the condition.
What exactly is High Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is the pressure of the blood in your blood vessels that is needed to keep blood flowing through your body. If we didn’t have blood pressure, gravity would simply pull all of our blood to our legs where it would stay, not much good to us there! To overcome this, the heart pumps the blood through your body, up to the brain, and down to the feet. We measure this pressure as the heart pumps the blood out (also known as the “top number” or systolic blood pressure), and the pressure in the arteries as the heart relaxes in between each beat (a.k.a the “bottom number” or diastolic blood pressure).
Some pressure is good, too much is bad!
The easiest way to understand high blood pressure is to think of your garden hose. You turn the tap on and water flows through freely. If there is a kink or twist in the hose, the water builds up pressure, and then sprays out all over your pot plants! If you use the hose with this high pressure, the pressure of the water doesn’t just wet the plants, it actually makes holes in the soil, and can damage the plants.
In a way, this is also what happens to your organs when your blood pressure goes too high: they get damaged. Over time, the blood doesn’t actually feed your organs with the needed oxygen and nutrients.
So, why do we keep our blood pressure in check?
If you do, you will reduce your risk for heart problems and protect your entire body from damage. We want the right pressure, so that your organs get enough blood, filled with oxygen, when it needs it.
What is “normal” blood pressure?
When the doctor measures your blood pressure, they have two numbers that tell them the pressure: The top number (systolic) and bottom number (diastolic). Normal blood pressure is below 120 (systolic) and below 80 (diastolic).
High blood pressure causes headaches, rosy cheeks and sweaty noses, right?
The thing about blood pressure though is that any changes in it won’t give you any early warning bells. It’s sneaky, it’s quiet and it leaves a lot of damage. You simply can’t tell when your blood pressure is up without a test.
Can you fix it?
Modern medicine is pretty amazing. It has managed to develop vaccines to control infectious disease, and medications to keep hearts and brains healthy. But… there is one catch. Medications can’t work if you’re not taking them! Once your doctor has given you medication to control your blood pressure, you need to take it every day.
People often stop taking the medication because they feel fine, but that is where you’re wrong: You should only stop treatment if the doctor confirmed that you don’t need it anymore. Your heart will thank you!
But what’s better than treating high blood pressure? Preventing it in the first place! How? Living a healthy lifestyle is key to prevent high blood pressure. Think of making healthy changes as a “lifestyle prescription”, just as your doctor would give you a prescription for medication.
The biggest difference is that making healthy changes won’t cost you a cent and your entire body will benefit! Sign up for our HIGHBLOOD health-tips for daily tips to keep your blood pressure just right.
Author: Dr Karen Heath