May is Hypertension Awareness Month, more commonly known as high blood pressure. So we decided to give you the low-down on all things high blood pressure. This post is going to be a bit more scientific, so bare with me.
What is high blood pressure?
High blood pressure is when blood pushes too hard against the walls of the blood vessels. I usually explain it like this…when you think about watering your garden with a hose pipe, you open a tap and the water comes through easily. Now imagine if the hose pipe was clogged with leaves and mud, the force of the water will have to be a lot higher to get water out of the pipe. This is exactly what happens in your blood vessels, when your blood vessels are clogged with fat, your heart has to work a lot harder for the blood to reach your whole body.
So what is normal?
Normal blood pressure is 120/80, the top value (120) is your systolic blood pressure = the pressure against the vessels when your heart pumps the blood. The bottom value (80) is your diastolic blood pressure = the pressure against your vessels when your heart relaxes to fill with blood.
Your blood pressure is high when the reading is 140/90 and above.
Now, lets talk about risk factors…
What increases your risk for developing high blood pressure? Here’s a list of risk factors:
- Unhealthy lifestyle choices e.g. a diet high in salt and saturated fat, low fruit and vegetable intake, high alcohol intake, not exercising, stress and being overweight.
- High blood sugar (diabetes mellites)
- Family history of high blood pressure
- Arteriosclerosis (thickening & hardening of the arterial walls)
- Aging (sorry guys!)
- Ethnicity (black race)
Having these risk factors doesn’t mean you’ll definitely get high blood pressure, it just means the possibility of you getting it is higher. Unfortunately, the more of these risk factors are present in your life, the higher your chance is of acquiring high blood pressure.
So what’s next?
Now that you know what hypertension is and are aware of the risk factors, you’re ready to learn how to prevent it. Diet is essential in prevention as there’s a lot of emphasis on lifestyle changes in the primary prevention and management of high blood pressure.
For the rest of this month all posts will be hypertension related, so keep coming back to learn more! See you next week!
Mahan. L.K., Raymond, J.L., 2017. Krause’s Food and the nutrition care process. 14th ed. Missouri: Elsevier, p.659-668