If you have ever gone to the doctor for a checkup or walked into a pharmacy you may have found your arm in a cuff experiencing a slow compression, release, and perhaps a blank look on your nurses face. I always wondered "what are they thinking? Good? Bad? What? TELL ME!" Blood pressure is a vital sign that is frequently and easily assessed, but what does it mean? When the internet age hit the technology forefront it revamped healthcare knowledge. We now have access to healthcare information at the tip of our fingers and understanding what our vitals mean is our responsibility to ourselves. We started our silent killer series with Diabetes last week and learned the precursor to it and how harmful it can be when left unmanaged, increasing your risk of heart attack. Blood pressure falls in the same boat. .. So what's the deal with it?
Hypertension HTN (High Blood Pressure)
Fact: About 74.5 million U.S. adults have been diagnosed with hypertension and millions more remain unaware. It has no symptoms and, without monitoring, can silently kill you by damaging your heart and arteries.
Blood Pressure is exactly that, the pressure applied to move the blood around the body. There are two forces that play a role in causing the pressure: one which is used to pump the blood through the arteries and the other of arteries resisting the flow. The pressure is applied on the most important muscle in the body, the heart. The harder the heart has to work means the higher the blood pressure. The hearts job is to pump blood and provide oxygen to all of the muscles and organs of the body, and lucky for us the heart takes a lot of pride in its job. As the going gets tough it gets tougher but eventually the heart enlarges and weakens from being overworked, and if left unmanaged, fails! Fortunately it is preventable and reversible through LIFESTYLE changes that are completely in your control. First it's important to know the signs and symptoms and interpret the numbers.
Clinical Indicator: Systolic/Diastolic
are the numbers presented to you in BP reading. As I mentioned earlier there are two forces: Systolic is the higher number representing the blood being pumped by the heart, Diastolic is the lower number representing the heart relaxing and the blood flowing back through the arteries. You are given both numbers with the Systolic always presented first over the diastolic and the metric used is mmHg (millimeters of mercury).
What is normal?
These ranges can vary by source but should be fairly close across the board; the following values are from the American Heart Association (AHA). Hypertension is the term used for high blood pressure.
Normal: <120/80 mmHg
*Normal w/Diabetes: < 130/80
Hypertension is a common co-morbidity for individuals with Diabetes therefore they must closely monitor.
Pre-Hypertension: Systolic is 120-139 mmHg OR Diastolic is 80-89mmHg. This is important because even though one of the two indicators is in normal range you are still at risk.
Hypertension: > /=140/90 mmHg
I want to stress that a common misconception is that BP is related to tension, nervousness, hyperactivity, anxiety and more. This is not the case, folks that are completely calm can have high BP hence why is coined the term "silent killer". There are usually no specific symptoms however holistically if you are overweight, highly stressed, smoke, have a poor diet, or have a co-morbid condition (like diabetes)then you may be at higher risk and should monitor yourself. Unfortunately even if you have an awesome diet and lead a very healthy lifestyle your risks can still be increased due to genetics. Women and South Asians have some of the highest heart disease rates and associated risk factors.
(*The information above was extracted from the American Heart Association and the South Asian Heart Center)
Bottom line: If you want to be healthy you have to make lifestyle changes along with complying with your meds or to avoid being on meds. Nutrition therapy is a way to do just that by finding a balance between Diet and Exercise along with Meds that will enhance an individual's life experience. A major part of any medical therapy is assessment. Clinical indicators play a big role in determining how well your body is responding to the therapeutic regimen you are on.
There is a lot that can be discussed about hypertension, my goal here is to empower you with the basic information so that you can make more informed decisions and ask your healthcare provider more detailed questions. If I didn't cover something you are looking for an answer to, please post to comments or email me.
Next week… Cholesterol!
Texting Zoleoite adventure finds her next meal at Chipotle… find out what she ordered on Thursday!