Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is the force that moving blood puts on the artery walls. As the heart muscle pumps out blood, the aorta (main blood vessel) is stretched until a peak pressure is reached. This peak pressure is called the “systolic pressure.” As the heart rests between beats, the arteries are more relaxed but maintain enough tension to allow smooth blood flow. This tension is called the “diastolic pressure”.
- Systolic pressure (top number) should range between 90 and 140 mmHg.
- Diastolic pressure (bottom number) should range between 60 and 90 mmHg.
If you have high blood pressure it means the heart is under pressure to pump blood and there is an increased tension on the artery walls. This may cause damage to the arteries since any injury causes plaque to build up. This ultimately weakens the heart muscle because hypertension requires the heart to work much harder.
Essential tips for getting to and maintaining healthy blood pressure levels.
- Lose weight if overweight (10 pounds results in lower blood pressure)
- Limit alcohol intake to no more than 1 drink a day for women and 3 drinks per day for men (12 ounces beer, 1 ounce liquor, 4 ounces wine)
- Exercise at least 4-5 times a week for 30-60 minutes if approved by your doctor.
- Follow the DASH diet: Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension
- Reduce sodium intake to 2,000 mg (less than 1 tsp. salt)
- Maintain adequate amounts of potassium, magnesium and calcium (nuts, tomatoes, yogurt, cantaloupe, honeydew, grains)
- Reduce dietary saturated and trans fat
- Eat at least 25 grams of fiber each day
- Avoid high sodium foods: cold cuts, cheese, processed or convenience foods, canned foods, soups, olives, pickles, soy sauce and other sauces, bouillon
- A low sodium food contains 140 mg per serving
Please consult your doctor before starting an exercise program or changing your diet.