It’s Not Just Stress: A Look at High Blood Pressure

When we get upset or stressed out, oftentimes we can feel our blood pressure rise and our hearts pound. This isn’t the only time you can have high blood pressure, though. You might not even know you have it! Chronic high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, affects over 1 billion people every year, according to the World Health Organization. If that was a country, it would be the 3rd highest population in the world!  So what exactly is this condition, and what does it do? 

What is High Blood Pressure? 

High blood pressure is diagnosed when someone’s blood pressure tests above average on two separate days. It is determined with two numbers that are a result of a simple test that is done with an inflatable cuff on a patient’s arm. The first number is the systolic number, and represents the pressure in your blood vessels when the heart beats. The second is the diastolic number, and it represents the pressure in your blood vessels when the heart is not beating. An ideal blood pressure reading is that the first, systolic, number is less than 140 mmHg and the second, diastolic, number is under 90 mmHg. Depending on your age and weight, your doctor may also have a more specific range of numbers that is ideal for you. 

Effects of high blood pressure

High blood pressure often builds over time and may not even show symptoms, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t make a big impact in your body. Over time, high blood pressure can cause damage to your blood vessels, putting you at risk for heart disease, heart attack and stroke.  No matter what age you are, it’s important to monitor your blood pressure and talk to your doctor about treatment options as early as possible. 

Keeping your blood pressure in a healthy range

If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, your doctor may prescribe medication. Healthy changes to your lifestyle can lower your blood pressure, as well, like eating a diet low in fat and sodium. Getting physically active is an important part of keeping your blood pressure in a healthy range. Some cases of high blood pressure can be caused by stress, so mindfulness exercises like meditation and yoga might be advised by your doctor and have a positive effect on your health overall.