When is the last time you had your blood pressure checked? What was the reading? More importantly, did you know what the reading meant? Unless there is something glaringly wrong with your blood pressure reading (and sometimes even then), practitioners won’t say anything about your reading when they take it. They’ll just recite the numbers and press on. But it’s very important to know what a healthy reading is.
Just how important? Consider that one in three Americans has high blood pressure. That is quite a sobering statistic. Many of these people are not even aware that they are hypertensive. High blood pressure puts you at risk for serious complications, including heart disease and stroke. If you want to prevent these deadly diseases, you need to keep your blood pressure under control.
What is a Healthy Blood Pressure Reading?
The first step is knowing what a healthy range is. Systolic pressure is the top number. Diastolic pressure is the bottom number.
- Normal blood pressure: Systolic less than 120, diastolic less than 80.
- Pre-hypertension: Systolic ranging from 120-139, diastolic ranging from 80-89.
- High blood pressure/hypertension: Systolic over 139, diastolic over 89.
How is low blood pressure defined? Definitions vary, but typically if your systolic blood pressure is under 90 mm and your diastolic reading is under 60 mm, then you are considered to have low blood pressure.
It is also important to know that one person’s normal blood pressure can be another person’s low blood pressure and vice versa. “Normal” readings vary for each individual, and there are also variations by age. Blood pressure readings tend to be on the lower side for younger people, for example. On top of all that, there is the fact that blood pressure varies throughout the day, and may also go up because of activity or factors in the environment or even mood.
Monitoring Your Blood Pressure
Once you understand how healthy blood pressure is defined, the next step is to buy a home blood pressure monitor so that you can keep track of your own levels. If your doctor is concerned about your blood pressure levels, he or she will recommend a schedule to take readings.
How often will you be asked to check? Usually it is recommended that for the first week or so, you take your blood pressure twice a day, once in the morning, and once in the evening. After you have done that, you usually can switch to taking it just a couple of times a week, or even a couple of times a month. Again, your doctor will work with you on this.
It is important to know how to take your blood pressure properly to ensure that you are getting accurate readings. To learn more, be sure to check out our detailed blog post on the topic.
Keeping Blood Pressure Levels Healthy
Tracking your blood pressure levels using a monitor gives you a feel for where you are at, and allows you to see if you are making improvements, maintaining your present levels, or getting worse. But how can you actually take steps toward improvements? Here are a few recommendations for reducing your high blood pressure:
Work out regularly
Exercising releases nitric acid in your body, which opens up your blood vessels, dropping blood pressure. It also helps to strengthen your cardiovascular system and lose weight. Burning just 10 pounds can make a substantial difference in your blood pressure readings.
Improve your diet
A healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables, fish and nuts is perfect for maintaining healthy blood pressure levels. Stay away from sugar, fats, red meats, and processed foods. If you eat an excessive amount of salt, back off from the shaker.
If you smoke or drink, knock it off
Alcohol causes weight gain and also raises your blood pressure all on its own—so that is two ways in which it makes your situation worse. Smoking constricts blood vessels, and is just really bad for you all around. It raises your risk for heart disease, the very thing you are trying to avoid.
Do what you can to reduce stress levels
Few things will raise your blood pressure as quickly as stress, frustration, and anger. If your life is filled with chronic stress, do what you can to remove stressors and relax. Take care of your psychological health to take care of your physical health.
Maintaining your blood pressure may require some serious lifestyle changes, and is a task that will call on you to make a lasting commitment. High blood pressure can rob you of your health, and ultimately, your life. Making the commitment to change and get healthy is absolutely worth it!