These days we always hear about the importance of maintaining a stable blood pressure, or BP. But why is it so important? Measuring our BP can help us keep tabs on the health of our circulatory system and, if it’s too high, serve as an indicator of potential future complications. In essence, if it is is too high, it serves as a warning sign that there’s some aspect of our lifestyle we should change or risk having health problems, such as a heart attack, down the road. For all of these reasons, and especially in today’s unhealthy world, it’s very important that we maintain a stable BP. Medically, high BP is referred to as hypertension.

Causes of Hypertension

In the modern, developed world, people are unhealthier than ever before. Obesity rates, as well as stress levels, have skyrocketed, and around 32 % of all American adults (about 1 in 3) have a high BP! Although we can’t definitively say what causes hypertension, medical professionals have many suspicions about what does. It’s fair to guess that there’s a link between increasing obesity rates and stress rates and increasing rates of high BP. In addition to obesity and stress, smoking is suspected as a culprit of hypertension. People who are older than 50 have a higher susceptibility to high BP, and it can also be hereditary.

What’s a Healthy BP Reading?

A BP reading is technically a measurement of the force with which blood presses against the walls of arteries with each heart beat. This reading is always written as two numbers, such as 120/80 (read as 120 over 80). What does each of these numbers indicate? The higher number, which represents what is called systolic pressure, is the maximum pressure measured and is recorded immediately after the contraction of the heart. The lower number, called diastolic pressure, is the minimum pressure, recorded after the heart begins to relax.

The next natural question is: what is a healthy BP? A person with a BP of 120/80 would be considered in very good health, and anything below this (within reason – BP being too low, or hypotension, can also be unhealthy) is excellent. A pressure reading between 120/80 and 140/90 is still technically in the normal range, but should be closely monitored and steps should be taken to lower it to prevent it from moving into the higher bracket. The risk of problems like stroke or heart attack increase the higher the BP gets, and hypertension is technically defined as any BP reading over 140/90.

Lowering BP and Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle

It is quite important to get checked regularly for hypertension. It is called the “silent killer” for a reason: it rarely presents symptoms on its own, instead being an insidious problem which a victim may not notice until years down the line when having a stroke or heart attack! Fortunately, certain steps can be taken to lower BP, and these come in the form of lifestyle changes. They include: losing weight if overweight, exercising, lowering your sodium intake (boosting potassium in your diet can also help offset sodium), and drinking less alcohol. In addition to consulting regularly with your doctor, you can also purchase a BP monitor for use at home.

The important thing to remember is that, ultimately, we are all responsible for our own health! We can absolutely have a positive effect on our health in the future by making smart decisions today. If you want to maintain healthy circulation, and decrease the risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the future, start making healthy choices today in order to lower or maintain an unhealthy or healthy blood pressure!