Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease by Lowering Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is the measurement of the force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries. It’s measured by two numbers, systolic and diastolic, represented as a ratio. Systolic is the higher of the two numbers and measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats. Diastolic is the lower of the two numbers and measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart is resting between beats.
Blood pressure is considered elevated for most people when it reads higher than 120 over 80. A measurement of 130+ over 80+ is considered high blood pressure, also known as hypertension.
Hypertension is a dangerous condition that significantly increases your chance of having a stroke or heart attack. Since high blood pressure typically doesn’t have any noticeable symptoms in the early stages, it’s important to have regular checkups and know your numbers. While you can check your blood pressure at home, high blood pressure needs to be diagnosed by a physician.
If you consistently have an elevated reading, your doctor can provide a treatment plan to get your blood pressure under control.
Treatment may include medication and lifestyle changes, such as:
- Losing weight. Shedding extra pounds is one of the most effective ways to control blood pressure. Losing weight around the waist, in particular, can greatly reduce your risk of high blood pressure, as well as heart disease.
- Getting regular exercise. At least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity 5 days a week can lower high blood pressure and can keep elevated blood pressure from developing into hypertension.
- Following a healthy diet. Eating more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and foods low in saturated and trans fats can help you better control your blood pressure. Reducing the amount of sodium in your diet and adding more potassium can also be beneficial.
- Quitting tobacco use. Every time you smoke, vape, or use tobacco of any kind, nicotine causes a temporary increase in blood pressure. Continuous use of tobacco can cause your blood pressure to remain elevated.
- Sleeping well. Poor quality sleep can contribute to hypertension. If you have trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep, talk to your doctor who can help determine the cause of your sleep disturbances and provide treatment.
Untreated, hypertension can be fatal. But by working closely with your doctor, you can significantly reduce the chances of falling victim to this “silent killer.”