Blood pressure is the pressure of the blood in our arteries. We need a certain amount of pressure to keep the blood flowing through the body. Our heart pumps blood through the arteries, contracting and relaxing. The problem is the high blood pressure.
Blood pressure, when is it high and when is it low?
The body’s blood pressure is a measure of the pressures within the cardiovascular system during the heart’s pumping cycle. It is influenced by a large number of variables, and it can change, even in the same person, because it rises and falls depending on daily activities (it is usually higher during the day, for example). It also tends to increase as we age.
When blood pressure is not healthy
There is a range of normal blood pressures that are considered acceptable. The reading consists of two numbers that are measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg). It is considered that a normal pressure It stands at 120/80 mmHg. There are two figures because blood pressure varies with the heartbeat.
The highest, called systolic, represents the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats, pumping blood into the arteries. The lowest pressure (diastolic) represents that of the arteries when the heart is relaxed between beats.
In general, more attention is paid to systolic pressure as a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease. It is estimated that in Spain some 11 million people have hypertension, especially those over 60 years old.
We talk about hypertension (or high blood pressure) when the values range from 130 to 139 systolic or 80 to 89 mmHg diastolic. High blood pressure is considered the number one factor of deaths worldwide (causes strokes, heart attacks and other cardiovascular complications).
One of the main problems is that it does not usually show symptoms (which is why it is called the “silent disease”), which causes only 50% of people who are hypertensive know it.
Controlling blood pressure, a lifelong commitment
Generally speaking, these modifications are natural forms. Some of the ones that have shown the most effectiveness are:
1. Maintain a healthy nutrition, low in salt
A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, nuts, and legumes is recommended, as well as avoiding saturated fats, red meat, sweets, and sugary drinks. These habits are beneficial to the heart and therefore help control blood pressure. These are the foods that best help keep blood pressure low.
2. Limit your salt intake
Reducing your salt intake is perhaps one of the most important ways to lower your blood pressure. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the consumption of five grams daily, no more.
In Spain, many consumers exceed this figure with so-called hidden salt, something worrying if we consider that salt is behind one in three cases of hypertension, one of the main causes of cardiovascular disease.
3. Perform physical exercise on a regular basis
Practicing physical activity can reduce blood pressure by 4 to 6 mm Hg. To do this, the ideal is to combine aerobic exercise of moderate intensity with strength exercises with little weight and many repetitions.
Physical activity, in addition to helping to control hypertension, also allows you to control weight, strengthen the heart, reduce pressure in the arteries and reduce the level of stress. It is advisable to carry out at least 150 minutes of physical activity a week moderate intensity, such as brisk walking.
4. Stop smoking
Whether we smoke or are exposed to tobacco smoke, we increase the risk of accumulation of fatty substances within the arteries (atherosclerosis), which accelerate high blood pressure. The problem is that nicotine is a major constrictor, which greatly increases blood pressure.
5. Maintain a healthy weight
Weight loss reduces stress on the heart; being overweight, on the other hand, puts additional pressure, which increases the risk of developing high blood pressure and damage to blood vessels.
Some studies have shown that lose about eight kilos it can be related to a reduction in systolic blood pressure by 8.5 mmHg and diastolic by 6.5 mmHg. Losing weight helps blood vessels expand and contract better, making it easier for the heart to pump blood.
A healthy weight is considered to be one that places the body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9, although what should really be measured is the fat index, since muscle mass can be highly variable depending on the person.
6. Limit alcohol consumption
Over time, drinking alcohol can damage your heart. In fact, it is estimated that alcohol is related to 16% of high blood pressure worldwide. And while some research suggests that low amounts of alcohol can protect the heart, these benefits may be outweighed by adverse effects.
7. Respect the medication (if so considered by the doctor)
If we are hypertensive it is possible that we should follow a pharmacological treatment. It is necessary to respect all the guidelines because the results are not always immediate.
In controlling blood pressure, therefore, an important part is lifestyle, in addition to medications if prescribed. If we don’t make lifestyle changes, medication alone won’t work effectively.
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