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5 Things You Should Know to Maintain a Healthy Blood Pressure

Whether you’re getting your annual physical or going to the urgent care center for a sore throat, checking your blood pressure is a routine procedure for medical visits. It’s important to maintain a healthy blood pressure, but we think it’s also important to understand the science behind it.

Here are answers to five of the most commonly asked blood pressure questions. We hope they help you take control of your heart (and overall) health and well-being.

1. What is blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of the arteries. As blood flows away from the heart and through the arteries, the blood presses up against the artery walls. Your blood pressure measures how much pressure the blood is putting on the arteries.

Blood pressure naturally rises and falls throughout the day. But when blood pressure stays elevated over time, it’s called high blood pressure and often results in a diagnosis of hypertension.

2. What does my blood pressure reading mean? Do I have a healthy blood pressure?

According to the American Heart Association, your blood pressure is recorded using two numbers:

  • Systolic blood pressure (the first number) indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls when the heart beats.
  • Diastolic blood pressure (the second number) indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls while the heart is resting between beats.

Normal systolic blood pressure falls under 120 while normal diastolic is typically under 80.

Please consult your physician if you have concerns about your risk for high blood pressure or if your at-home readings are above normal.

3. Why is high blood pressure dangerous?

High blood pressure is dangerous because it makes your heart work harder than it needs to.

This contributes to atherosclerosis, or the hardening of the arteries. Atherosclerosis increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. According to the CDC, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Each year, 630,000 Americans die from heart diseases. That’s one in every four deaths.

High blood pressure also can result in other conditions such as congestive heart failure, kidney disease, and blindness.

4. How do you know if you're at risk?

Your family’s medical history, your lifestyle, and your environment can increase (or decrease) your risk of developing high blood pressure.

In addition, your risk for high blood pressure can increase based on your age and your race or ethnicity. According to the CDC, your blood pressure tends to rise as you get older. It is estimated that nine out of ten Americans will develop high blood pressure during their lifetime.

Research has concluded that your genes can also play a role in your risk level. GenoPalate analyzes genes like the ACE gene. Certain variants in this gene are linked to decreased blood pressure on a low-fat diet. Multiple genes can affect blood pressure, but risks can be managed through lifestyle changes.

5. Can you lower your risk or reverse a diagnosis?

The link between high blood pressure and your diet is one of the most well-researched areas of nutritional science. While some foods are linked to increased blood pressure, others are linked to lowered blood pressure. Changes in weight and physical activity can also affect blood pressure.

Sodium (salt) in particular has been shown to increase risk of hypertension. Limiting added salt to recipes and reducing processed foods like deli meats, cheeses, and packaged or fast food can significantly improve blood pressure.

Specific nutrients—like potassium, magnesium, and calcium—can also help to decrease high blood pressure.

While we don’t recommend one-size-fits-all diets, the DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is designed to help lower blood pressure. It focuses on a way of eating that includes vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean sources of protein.

All diets, including the DASH diet, should be considered in light of your genetic variants. Some genetic variants, for instance, find that switching to a low-sodium diet helps them reach a healthy blood pressure level.

If you don’t have your personalized nutrition recommendations and food list yet, you can order yours here.

And if you’ve been putting off your physical, give your doctor a call and get an updated blood pressure reading at your earliest convenience.


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