What Is Blood Pressure

It is estimated that over 60 million Americans have high blood pressure. We’ve all heard that high blood pressure can kill you. Since there may not be any symptoms, it is often called the silent disease.

But do you really know what high blood pressure is and why it’s bad for you? Let me explain the role of blood pressure in your body. Blood is pushed throughout the body by the pump we call the heart. The left side of the heart pumps blood rich with oxygen to the largest artery the aorta. From the aorta the blood travels through the arteries and throughout the body.

The heart pumps about 10 pints of blood into the aorta in one minute. This is called cardiac output. Each beat of the heart pushes blood into the aorta. The blood pushes against the walls of the artery causing the pressure inside the artery to increase. The walls of the arteries are elastic. The artery walls must stretch much like a balloon to hold the blood being pumped into them.

After beating to push the blood out, the heart relaxes before the next beat and the pressure in the arteries is reduced. The arteries must spring back to their original shape before the next pump of the heart. This springing back of the blood vessels also helps to push the blood throughout the body.

We all know that blood pressure is measured in the main artery of the arm. The force exerted by the blood on the walls of this artery is called blood pressure. Blood pressure rises with each beat of the heart and falls between beats. The highest pressure is called the systolic blood pressure. This should be about 120 mm. Hg. The lowest pressure when the heart relaxes should be about 80 mm. Hg and is called the diastolic pressure.

The diastolic pressure indicates the health of the arteries. The higher this reading the more resistance the heart will have to overcome with the next beat. Every one point drop in diastolic blood pressure results in a two percent drop for the risk of heart attacks.

Many things can affect blood pressure. The elasticity of the walls of the blood vessels and the degree of narrowing of the blood vessels will affect the reading. The smaller the opening the more force necessary to push the blood.

If your blood pressure is high, your heart must work harder to push the blood throughout your body. And your heart will enlarge due to overwork. High blood pressure causes more force against the walls of the blood vessels and if the walls are weakened an aneurysm may occur. Other dangers of high blood pressure are strokes, heart attacks, kidney failure and dementia.

If you are overweight losing weight will often result in a lowering of your blood pressure. Start a weight loss program. Excess sugar in your diet can contribute to atherosclerosis-a build up of plaque on the artery walls. Stress can contribute to high blood pressure. More than one glass of alcohol can contribute to high blood pressure.

Unfortunately, as we age our arteries become narrow and inelastic. Inelastic arteries cannot expand. We know this as hardening of the arteries. Because of this our blood pressure increases with age. And then high blood pressure makes the heart work harder since there is more resistance at each pump.

Moderate exercise, biofeedback, losing weight, reducing stress and drastically cutting back on sugar in the diet can all help to lower high blood pressure. The good news is that you can take control now before it’s too late.

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