What Is Healthy Blood Pressure?
First let's define Blood Pressure:
Blood Pressure is the pressure of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries which carry blood from the heart to other parts of the body. This force is necessary to make the blood flow, delivering nutrients and oxygen throughout the body. It is expressed as a measurement with two numbers. The top number or systolic refers to the amount of pressure in your arteries during the contraction of your heart muscle. This is called systolic pressure. The bottom number or diastolic measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart rests between beats. This is called diastolic pressure. Blood pressure often fluctuates during the day, depending if you're in a resting state or active state. Blood pressure readings are expressed in millimetres of mercury (mm Hg).
What is a normal Blood Pressure reading?
The American Heart Association (AHA) considers blood pressure to be within the normal range when both your systolic and diastolic numbers are less than 120/80 mm Hg. An accurate Blood Pressure measurement should be determined by a Health Care Professional and readings are evaluated based on the average of two or more blood pressure readings at three or more office visits. Normal Blood Pressure readings can vary depending on the individual's lifestyle, daily physical activity, hereditary factors and other practices.
What does Hypertension mean?
Hypertension means high blood pressure- which means that there is too much pressure in your blood vessels. This can damage your blood vessels and cause health problems. According to Harvard Medical School, having blood pressure measures consistently above normal (120/80 mm Hg) may result in a diagnosis of high blood pressure (or hypertension). Some health care professionals diagnose patients with high blood pressure if their blood pressure is consistently 140/90 mm Hg or higher. The Chart provides a more accurate description of blood pressure categories. High blood pressure usually has no warning signs or symptoms, and many people do not know they have it. Hypertension is the number one risk factor for stroke and a major risk factor for heart disease. It can happen because of unhealthy lifestyle choices or secondary to other health conditions (such as diabetes, hormone disorders, vascular diseases or kidney diseases). High blood pressure diagnosed in people with no identifiable cause is called Essential Hypertension.
Maintaining a healthy blood pressure:
As we age, maintaining a healthy blood pressure becomes more important. Even if your blood pressure is normal, adopting a healthy lifestyle can prevent or delay the onset of high blood pressure and other health problems. Some factors like age, sex and family history cannot be controlled. The first approach though to maintaining a healthy blood pressure or treating hypertension is addressing factors that we can control. Health care professionals often first advise lifestyle changes before starting pharmaceutical drugs. Hypertension Canada lists some of these objectives:
- Being more physically active: An accumulation of 30-60 minutes of dynamic exercise of moderate intensity (such as walking, cycling, swimming) four to seven days per week in addition to the routine activities of daily living.
- Weight management: can significantly reduce blood pressure- 10 mm Hg for every 10 kg lost (Individual variation exists).
- Moderation in alcohol intake
- Eating healthier: a diet high in vegetables and fruits, dietary fibre and Omega-3 fatty acids, less animal proteins, lower saturated fats and processed sugars.
- Alternative/ relaxation therapies: Individualized cognitive behaviour interventions are more likely to be effective when relaxation techniques are employed such as deep breathing exercises, yoga, hypnosis and meditation.
Always consult with a health care professional before starting any supplementation. Depending on your individual health needs, supplements are recommended based on a thorough medical history. Below are general recommendations to maintain a healthy blood pressure:
- Antioxidants: Dietary antioxidant nutrients such as Lycopene, lutein, flavonoids, selenium, CoQ10, Vitamin E and Vitamin C have been shown in population based studies to offer significant protection against the development of cardiovascular diseases.
- Magnesium: Low magnesium intake can result in low intracellular potassium levels which can cause elevation in blood pressure. Considerable evidence indicates that after magnesium intake, blood pressure is lowered through activation of the cellular membrane pump.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids: More than 60 double-blinded studies have demonstrated that fish oil supplements or Flax Seed oil) are effective in maintaining/ lowering blood pressure at a typical dosage of 3,000 mg EPA + DHA.
- Folic Acid and Vitamin B6: reduce levels of homocysteine, a known contributor of atherosclerosis.
- Coenzyme Q10: is an essential component for the mitochondria, which seems to influence some metabolic abnormalities which in turn influence blood pressure.
- Botanical Medicines: Hawthorn - several studies have demonstrated that hawthorn extracts are effective in lowering blood pressure and improving heart function.
In conclusion, a combination of healthy lifestyle, proper exercise and diet, stress management, and appropriate individual supplementation, can contribute to maintaining a healthy blood pressure and preventing cardiovascular diseases.