Medical False Positives:
How Low Should Your Blood Pressure Go?
One in four U.S. adults suffers from high blood pressure, or hypertension, a condition that can damage your arteries and increase your risk of heart attack or stroke.
High blood pressure typically causes no symptoms, so have yours checked regularly to be sure it’s at a healthy level.
When your blood pressure is too high, it causes the tissue in your artery walls to stretch excessively, which creates weak spots and tiny tears that may lead to scarring. These, in turn, can lead to a rupture in your blood vessels, which may cause a stroke or aneurysm, as well as blood clots, which increases your risk of heart attack.
You can have high blood pressure for years and not know it, because the condition, though dangerous, does not usually cause any symptoms. In fact, even if your blood pressure is dangerously high, you might not know it.
What Does it Mean to Have High Blood Pressure?
High blood pressure is very common, and in most cases (upwards of 95 percent) there is no one cause or trigger. So what does it mean if you have a high reading?
“Blood pressure is determined by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries. The more blood your heart pumps and the narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure,” writes the Mayo Clinic.
So when you get a blood pressure reading, you’ll get two numbers. The top, or systolic, measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats. The bottom, or diastolic, measures the pressure in your arteries between heartbeats.
Generally, to be considered normal your blood pressure should be less than 120/80 mm Hg if you’re age 20 or over.
Notice the “less than”? Experts have long believed that lower is better as far as blood pressure goes, but new research is showing that lower is not always better.
How “Low” Should Blood Pressure Readings Go?
High blood pressure is generally said to begin at 140/90 mm Hg. However, according to a systemic review published in the Cochrane Review, using drugs to lower your blood pressure below this level may not offer any benefit.
“At present there is no evidence from randomized trials to support aiming for a blood pressure target lower than 140/90, in the general population of patients with elevated blood pressure,” lead researcher Jose Arguedas of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Costa Rica in Costa Rica said in ScienceDaily.
What this means is that if you’re taking drugs for “pre-hypertension,” it may not offer a benefit.
Upon reviewing seven trials that involved over 22,000 people, the researchers found that while those attempting to lower blood pressure levels below 135/85 mmHg did have greater reductions than a standard target group, there was no difference in rates of heart attack, stroke, heart failure or kidney failure.
“Although 120/80 mm Hg or lower is the ideal blood pressure goal, doctors are unsure if you need treatment (medications) to reach that level,” wrote the Mayo Clinic.
How to Keep Your Blood Pressure Healthy
If your blood pressure is high, you may need medications to help lower it. However, often lifestyle changes will be enough to keep your blood pressure in a healthy range. Here are six tips to follow:
Exercise is Essential for Healthy Blood Pressure!
Get into shape and kick your health to ever higher levels, no matter what your age.
1. Eat Healthy
Avoid processed foods and buy whole fresh, organic foods whenever possible. As you switch over to more fresh foods, take advantage of locally grown foods from a source you trust, these are among some of the healthiest meals you can eat.
Be sure to include plenty of potassium-rich foods in your diet, such as Swiss chard, spinach, and avocado, as this nutrient may be useful for preventing and controlling high blood pressure.
2. Keep a Healthy Weight
Being overweight or obese increases your risk of high blood pressure. Losing even five pounds can help keep your levels down.
3. Exercise Regularly
Numerous studies show the link between exercise and lower blood pressure, so this one is a must-do. Look for a local gym or an exercise program you can do right from your own home.
4. Keep Stress Levels Under Control
Stress can increase your blood pressure, so take a moment twice a day to practice meditation or deep breathing for three to five minutes. Other relaxing activities include journal writing, playing with a pet, and working in the garden.
You can also clear your mind of the day’s stressors and bring peace to the end of your day by listening to relaxing music or a relaxation CD.
5. Nix Unhealthy Lifestyle Habits
Smoking and heavy drinking can damage your heart and lead to increases in blood pressure. Ideally, you should cut out both from your lifestyle.
6. Check Your Vitamin D Levels
Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to high blood pressure as well, and in the United States many are deficient.
Sun exposure (without burning) is the best form of vitamin D, but if you cannot get out in the sun regularly, experts recommend supplementing with a vitamin D3 supplement, which is the same natural vitamin D your body makes when exposed to the sun.
Along with having your health care practitioner regularly check your blood levels of vitamin D to make sure you’re in the optimal range — not too high or too low — you should make sure your body has the best chances of absorbing the vitamin D.
The above lifestyle changes can help you to prevent high blood pressure or manage it if you already have it. Even if you’re already taking anti-hypertension drugs, the above steps may help in your treatment.
But please remember, high blood pressure can be a deadly problem, so be sure to have your blood pressure checked regularly by your health care practitioner and seek help immediately if your blood pressure levels rise to 180 or above for the systolic (top) number or 110 or above for the diastolic (bottom) number.