What is Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is the force exerted by the blood on the walls of the vessels during contraction and relaxation. The numbers in your blood pressure reading tell how hard your heart is working to pump blood. A blood pressure of less than or equal to 120/80 is considered normal. A blood pressure of 140/90 or higher is considered high.
As body weight increases, blood pressure rises. The single most important factor in decreasing high blood pressure is weight reduction. Losing just 5 pounds can decrease blood pressure!
Eating excessive amounts of salt causes your body to retain more water. The increase in fluid circulating in the body causes an increase in pressure on the blood vessels. The blood vessel walls begin to thicken and the heart has to work harder to move fluid around, leading to high blood pressure. Aiming for 1,500mg of sodium can help to manage high blood pressure. Sodium is found in processed foods like deli meats, soups, and frozen meals.
A diet high in potassium helps to protect you from high blood pressure. Potassium inhibits the reabsorption of sodium in the body. It is recommended to consume between 2,000 and 4,000mg of potassium. Potassium can be found in many fruits (oranges, tomatoes, bananas, raisins, apricots) and vegetables (potatoes, peas, beans, broccoli, spinach).
Chronic consumption of more than 1 ounce per day of alcohol has been associated with higher blood pressure. Intake should be limited to 1-2 ounces of ethanol per day. This translates into 1 12-oz beer, 4oz wine, and 1oz of hard liquor.
Physical activity decreases your risk of high blood pressure by as much as 50%. Regular physical activity helps to strengthen your heart. As little as 30 minutes per day of physical activity can decrease blood pressure by 10mmHg. Physical activity also helps with weight management.
Lastly, smoking cessation is an also a very important change to make when decreasing your risk of high blood pressure.
Happy heart health!