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Know your numbers for good blood pressure health

Do you know what your blood pressure should be? Read on to make sense of the numbers adding up to healthy blood pressure.

Know Your Numbers week runs from the 7th – 14th September. A campaign by Blood Pressure UK, it aims to raise awareness of the importance of your blood pressure being within the normal range. During the week, blood pressure is usually checked for free at testing stations set up around the UK, and although this can’t be done this year, the event is encouraging as many people as possible to test their blood pressure at home.

Blood Pressure UK estimate as many as one-third of the population of the UK have high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Most of these people have no idea their blood pressure is elevated, as it often doesn’t produce any symptoms.

How Can You Tell You Have High Blood Pressure?

The only way is to check using a blood pressure monitor. Your blood pressure should be around 120/80. The top number refers to your systolic blood pressure, the pressure exerted on your blood vessels by your heart when it’s pumping blood around your body. Your systolic reading increases when your heart works harder or faster than usual.

The bottom number is your diastolic pressure, the residual pressure in your blood vessels in between heartbeats.

If either one of your readings is consistently over 140/90 for a period of time you are suffering from hypertension.

It’s important to take steps to reduce high blood pressure because the extra pressure will put strain on your heart and blood vessels. Having consistently high blood pressure puts you at greater risk of heart attack and stroke. It’s also linked with kidney problems, dementia and eye problems.

Causes of High Blood Pressure

If your blood vessels become narrower than usual your blood pressure will rise. This can be due to atherosclerotic plaques, fatty deposits on the inside of your arteries encouraged by a diet high in processed fats and too few antioxidants.

The diameter of your arteries may reduce because the muscles circling their walls can’t relax properly. Muscles need sufficient magnesium to relax, so if you’re low in this mineral your blood pressure may be higher than it should be.

Consuming too much salt and not enough potassium is linked to high blood pressure because your body will retain water and your blood volume will increase.

Alcohol can cause blood pressure to rise, and smoking increases your risk.

Being overweight is strongly associated with raised blood pressure. Research has found blood pressure reduced by 1 point with every kg lost. The type of fat sitting around your belly, called visceral fat, has the strongest connection with high blood pressure. If you have a waist measurement of over 35” (88cm) for women or 40” (102cm) for men, you’re likely to have visceral fat.

Ongoing stress will raise blood pressure to prepare you to escape from danger. Not having enough sleep is a stressor to your body.

Blood pressure naturally rises with age, because blood vessels become more rigid and less flexible.

How to Measure Your Blood Pressure

It’s easy to take your own blood pressure using a blood pressure monitor with a digital display and a cuff to fit around your upper arm. Some surgeries offer a machine for you to borrow for a week or so.

Your blood pressure naturally varies throughout the day and rises when you’re active, so blood pressure should be taken when you’re relaxed and sitting down. Because you might not be completely relaxed in the GP’s surgery, your blood pressure is often higher there than usual, a condition known as ‘white coat syndrome’. It’s a good idea to take two or three readings to obtain an average measurement.

Successful Strategies to Reduce High Blood Pressure

Diet and lifestyle changes can be very effective at reducing high blood pressure.

Exercise. As little as ten minutes’ walking per day can decrease blood pressure. Sitting for long periods is a particular risk factor, so make sure you get up regularly if you have a desk-based job – aim to do some stretching exercises around every half hour.

Stress management techniques like yoga, meditation, Tai Chi and deep breathing can successfully bring down your blood pressure numbers, as well as helping you sleep better.

Eat mainly whole, unprocessed foods, including good sources of magnesium like green leafy vegetables, fresh nuts and beans. Switching to nutrient-dense whole foods will naturally reduce your salt intake.

Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can push up blood pressure in some people. Remember caffeine is not only found in coffee, it’s also in tea, cola and energy drinks.

Functional Medicine and High Blood Pressure

Everyone is unique, and my goal is to uncover the reasons why your blood pressure is higher than it should be. I’ll provide you with a dietary, lifestyle and supplement plan to naturally restore your blood pressure numbers to within a healthy range once more. Contact me to start your journey.

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