Your heart pumps blood around your body through a network of tubing called arteries and capillaries and then back to your heart via your veins. Blood pressure is the force of the blood pushing against the walls of the arteries as the heart pumps.
As your heart contracts it pushes blood into your arteries and this causes an increase in pressure, and the highest pressure is known as the systolic pressure. As your heart relaxes and refills with blood, the pressure in your arteries falls and this is known as diastolic pressure. When blood pressure is measured in your arm, both of these pressures are measured.
Blood pressure is always given as these two numbers, the systolic and diastolic pressures. Both are important. Usually they are written one above or before the other, such as 120/80 and expressed in pressure units of millimeters of mercury (mmHg). The systolic pressure is the first or top number, and the diastolic pressure is the second or bottom number (for example, 120/80). If your blood pressure is 120/80, you say that it is "120 over 80".
Blood pressure can vary over a wide range. For instance, the top pressure when the heart contracts (systolic) can vary from 90 to 240 mmHg and the bottom pressure when the heart relaxes (diastolic) can vary from 40 to 160 mmHg.
Your blood pressure varies by large amounts, depending on what you are doing during the day. The lowest blood pressures occur when you are asleep or if you relax all your muscles. Standing up, exercising, anxiety, and nervousness can each cause an increase in blood pressure. In a single day your blood pressure may vary by 30 to 40 mmHg systolic with similar proportionate changes in diastolic pressure. This is why it is important to have your blood pressure measured under the same conditions every time.
For most of your waking hours, your blood pressure stays pretty much the same when you are sitting or standing still. Ideally, your blood pressure should be 120/80 or lower when relaxed.
When the level stays high, such as 140/90 or higher, you have a condition called high blood pressure or hypertension. With high blood pressure, the heart works harder to pump blood through your arteries, your arteries take a beating from having the blood forced into and through them, and your risks of a stroke, heart attack, and kidney problems are greater.
Hypertension is dangerous because it causes the heart to work harder. When the heart is forced to work hard for an extended period of time, it tends to enlarge. A slightly enlarged heart can function well, but a significantly enlarged heart cannot. High blood pressure also causes damage to the arteries, causing arterial disease.
This is why it is so important for everyone to lead a healthy lifestyle to make sure that their blood pressure is as low and as healthy as it can be.
Reducing High Blood Pressure without Drugs
Non-pharmacological blood pressure reduction is the treatment of blood pressure without the use of drugs. This natural method of reducing blood pressure is the preferred treatment as it means you may end up with a normal blood pressure reading without having to resort to treatment by drugs.
Simple changes in diet can lower blood pressure as effectively as conventional hypertension drugs. This was confirmed in a study directed by the Kaiser Permanente Center for Health Research, in Portland, Oregon, in cooperation with researchers at Johns Hopkins, Harvard, and Duke Universities. Changes in blood pressure being lower were noticed within two weeks in the group that practiced a diet low in fats and high in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products.
Other studies have confirmed that the recommendations noted below have a very good possibility of lowering your blood pressure.
Reduce weight if you are overweight
Eliminate salt and salty foods, and avoid alcohol, caffeine, and smoking.
Change your diet to include more potassium-rich foods (potato, avocado, bananas), fiber, and complex carbohydrates. Eat more celery, garlic, onions, and foods high in omega-3 fatty acids (wild salmon), but eat much less animal fat.
Take supplements, including calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, zinc, flaxseed oil, and fish oil.
Exercise more and practice stress-reduction techniques (biofeedback, self-hypnosis, yoga, meditation, muscle relaxation).
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