Heart Health and Blood Pressure: How High Blood Pressure Affects the Heart

Everyone has heard of the term "high blood pressure" before, and most likely knows someone with the condition. In fact, 1 out of 3 three American adults has it. So it can't be that bad for your health, right? The truth is, when left untreated, high blood pressure can put you at risk for potentially life-threatening complications. 

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can cause many heart conditions, including: coronary artery disease, heart failure, enlarged left heart, and metabolic syndrome.

It can also cause kidney damage, raise the risk of a stroke, and make people more likely to develop vision problems. Because of all of these increased risk factors, it's incredibly important to measure and understand your blood pressure levels.

Blood pressure numbers and what they mean

First, it's important to know that your blood pressure is recorded as two numbers.

Systolic blood pressure (the first number): This number measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats.

Diastolic blood pressure (the second number): This number measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart rests between beats.

A normal blood pressure level is less than 120/80 mmHg (millimeters of mercury). However, your blood pressure changes throughout the day based on your activities. Having blood pressure measures consistently above normal is what results in a diagnosis of high blood pressure.

Blood pressure categories

The five blood pressure ranges recognized by the American Heart Association are:

Blood pressure numbers of less than 120/80 mm Hg are considered within the normal range. If your results fall into this category, stick with heart-healthy habits like following a balanced diet and getting regular exercise.

Elevated blood pressure is when readings consistently range from 120-129 systolic and less than 80 mm Hg diastolic. People with elevated blood pressure are likely to develop high blood pressure unless steps are taken to control the condition.

Hypertension Stage 1
This is when blood pressure consistently ranges from 130-139 systolic or 80 to 89 mm Hg diastolic. At this stage of high blood pressure, health care professionals are likely to prescribe lifestyle changes and may consider adding blood pressure medication based on your risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Hypertension Stage 2
This is when blood pressure consistently is 140/90 mm Hg or higher. At this stage of high blood pressure, health care professionals are likely to prescribe a combination of blood pressure medications and lifestyle changes.

Hypertensive crisis
This stage of high blood pressure requires medical attention. If your blood pressure readings suddenly exceed 180/120 mm Hg, wait 5 minutes and then test your blood pressure again. If your readings are still unusually high, contact your doctor as soon as possible. If you have chest pain, shortness of breath, back pain, numbness/weakness, change in vision or difficulty speaking, don't wait to see if your pressure comes down. Call 911.

If you have a blood pressure monitor at home, be sure to regularly measure your numbers and compare the results to your physician's numbers.

Preventing high blood pressure

By living a healthy lifestyle, you can help keep your blood pressure in a healthy range. 

Eat a healthy diet: Choose healthy food options to help you avoid high blood pressure and the complications. Make sure you're getting plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Eating a variety of foods rich in potassium, fiber, and protein and lower in salt and saturated fat can also help keep blood pressure low and protect against heart disease and stroke.

Maintain a healthy weight: Having overweight or obesity increases your risk for high blood pressure. To determine whether your weight is in a healthy range, doctors often calculate your body mass index (BMI) using your height and weight. Doctors sometimes also use waist and hip measurements to assess body fat.

Stay active: Exercising can help keep you at a healthy weight and also lower your blood pressure. The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults get at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (such as walking or bicycling) every week. That comes out to about 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.

Avoid smoking: Smoking raises your blood pressure and puts you at higher risk for heart attack and stroke.

Get enough sleep: Sleep is important to your overall health, and enough sleep is part of keeping your heart and blood vessels healthy. Not getting enough has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.

We hope this information on blood pressure will help you keep your heart healthy. At OnSite Wellness LLC, health and wellness is our specialty.

Incorporating a wellness program at your workplace can have massive benefits for your employees in managing their health. Contact us to learn more!