You’ve probably noticed that your doctor is always keen to take your blood pressure when you go in for a check-up. Why is it such an important metric for doctors? And what is blood pressure anyway.
Blood pressure is the amount of force the blood leaving your heart puts on the aorta, the biggest artery in your body. Your physician will likely record two numbers: systolic and diastolic.
Systolic is the pressure the aorta feels when the heart squeezes.
Diastolic describes the pressure when your heart relaxes.
Healthy blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg or lower, meaning 120 mmHg systolic and 80 mmHg diastolic.
Arteries are the tunnels inside your body through which oxygen-rich blood travels from the heart to all the other parts of the body. Since blood puts literal pressure on your arteries, you really want them to be in tip-top shape.
Healthy arteries are bouncy, flexible, and free from cholesterol build-up. But as we get older, poor diet and lifestyle can cause fat to cover the inside of the artery walls. This makes it harder for blood to flow freely through your body, and as a result, your heart must apply more pressure in order to circulate blood. Over time, your heart will work harder and harder to keep up proper circulation, giving way to a variety of health complications.
A stroke, for instance, occurs when arteries burst under all that intense pressure, the same way a water pipe might burst due to frozen water in the wintertime.
Monitoring your diet and lifestyle is the best way to keep blood pressure low. Since fat and cholesterol can build-up in our bodies, eating foods with too much of these properties can cause severe damage to your health. Moderation is key.
Reducing the amount of dairy in your diet is one of the best ways to lower blood pressure, especially if you can’t exercise as much as you want. Doctors also recommend decreasing the amount of red meat in your diet and getting plenty of cardiovascular exercise, like running, biking, or rowing.
Other lifestyle choices
Some lifestyle choices lead to high blood pressure including smoking, drinking, stress, not sleeping enough, and drug use. These activities stiffen arteries, force your heart to work harder, and increase stress hormones in your body. If dietary changes and exercise sound difficult, the least you can do is cut down on some of these habits. You may find that drinking less or quitting cigarettes are enough to drastically improve your blood pressure!
Of course, everyone’s body is different, so it’s important to discuss with your doctor any diet or lifestyle changes you want to make.