Why Healthy Blood Pressure Matters By Nicole DePalma MS, LMT A healthy blood pressure reading is vital to good health, and if blood pressure (BP) numbers go too high or too low, there can be serious …
Why Healthy Blood Pressure Matters
By Nicole DePalma MS, LMT
A healthy blood pressure reading is vital to good health, and if blood pressure (BP) numbers go too high or too low, there can be serious consequences to our health that can’t be overstated.
First, what is BP, and what do the its numbers mean?
BP, at its basic level, means the amount of pressure required to push blood through the body. When we have our BP read, we get something that sounds like 120/80, for example. The top number, or Systolic BP, in this case the 120, measures the force your heart exerts on the walls of your arteries each time it beats. The bottom number, in this case is 80, and this is Diastolic BP, representing the force your heart exerts on the walls of your arteries in-between beats, or that pause where your heart rests. Your BP is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg).
Depending on references you check out, you may find either 4 or 5 general categories of BP numbers that rate from “below” or “above” a standard healthy BP reading. I prefer to go with Minnesota’s own Mayo Clinic as a reference, and I’ll share with you what Mayo has to say about its 4 categories, and what they mean.
First of all, Mayo Clinic uses the BP reading of 120 over 80, or 120/80 as its “gold standard” if you will, where the rest of its 4 category chart is based on. I’ve seen that some references are now recommending 115/75 as a preference for their “gold standard”, so please know that like everything else, you’ll see “variations on the theme”, and to find information that comes from reliable, tried and true sources. Please note that Mayo Clinic states that this chart is a reflection of BP as a single health condition, and if BP issues are compounded by other health issues such as heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, etc., treatment for high BP may need to be more aggressive. This chart also represents numbers for adults. Also around 120/80 represents an ideal pressure of blood pressing against artery walls that are flexible enough to expand and retract in a healthy manner.
Category 1: Below 120 and below 80 Normal BP Category 2: 120 to 129 and below 80 Elevated BP Category 3: 130 to 139 or 80 to 89 Stage I High BP Category 4: 140 or higher or 90 or higher Stage II High BP Notice where the words “and” and “or” are used. This is important. The Categories of 1 and 2 use the word “and” when measuring Systolic and Diastolic BP, whereas Categories 3 and 4 use the word “or” when measuring SBP and DBP. What does this mean, exactly? Let’s say that after visiting your Health Care Provider, during three or more visits where your BP has been measured 2 or more times, your BP seems to stay around 130/80. 80 is a nice DBP number, and our chart tells us that a DBP of 80 puts us in Category 1 or 2. However, 130 SBP puts us in Category 3, which falls under the Stage I high BP area. Unfortunately, when we have a mixed reading like this over BP checks over several office visits, that one higher reading, whether it be the SBP or DBP number is going to put us up into the next highest Category. Wow!
Now that we have an understanding of what BP is, what BP numbers mean, and the basic Categories of BP, and what the Categories mean, let’s talk “Big Picture”. What are the health consequences of living with high BP or low BP?
High BP, or Hypertension is the result of arteries that have become hardened and narrowed, and not having the flexibility to expand and retract well. Hardened arteries ask the heart to beat harder to push blood through the arteries, and thus, out through the body. Often times, this can happen from too much cholesterol or fat in the blood stream being deposited in those artery walls. Over time, the constant pressure of blood moving through a weakened artery may cause a section of that artery wall to enlarge, and form a bulge or aneurysm which could potentially rupture, in turn causing a potentially life-threatening issue due to internal bleeding. High BP may also damage our hearts, brains, kidneys, and even our eyes.
Low BP, or Hypotension, often times stems from a slow heart rate, called Bradycardia (a high HR is called Tachycardia), and a low BP is indicated from a BP reading of 90/60 and below. Low BP may cause fatigue, lightheadedness, shortness of breath, and confusion. Some causes of Low BP may be a heart valve disease, where one or more of the 4 heart valves doesn’t function properly opening and closing, or a heart attack, where a blockage in the heart has caused the heart to slow to not even beat. There are certainly other causes of high or low BP, and the health issues that arise from these issues, and we are only discussing a fraction of all the information there is regarding how BP affects our health.
If your Heath Care Provider is finding that some sort of treatment is required to bring your BP to a range that is more healthy for you, please do follow that advice. Lifestyle and dietary changes can really help change unhealthy BP numbers to a more healthy level. If your HC Provider finds that medication will help to regulate your BP, then that step may be necessary. But a good consultation which answers all the questions you may have in your particular instance will always be the way to go to correct BP issues now, and moving forward. We all would like to enjoy long, healthy, meaningful lives, and healthy BP is one aspect of staying on a vibrant track. Let’s all be proactive in how we take care of ourselves day by day. Cheers and Be Well…always!