All about Blood Pressure

Blood Pressure (BP) measures the pressure of blood against your arteries.  HYPERtension means blood is exerting a high pressure against the arteries.  HYPOtension means the opposite.  There are two numbers in the measurement (it looks like a fraction: 110/70 mm Hg).  “Systolic” is the top part of the fraction – this number measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart muscle contracts.  “Diastolic” is the bottom part of the fraction – this number measures the pressure in the arteries in between heartbeats.  That number is generally the lower number since it measures the pressure when the heart is between beats and refilling with blood.   The American Heart Association recommends a systolic less than 120 mm Hg and a diastolic less than 80 mm Hg.  Everyday, everyone’s blood pressure rises and falls (it falls during sleep, rises during exercise, and stays elevated during stressful times).  Read on for a full list of ways to lower high BP and keep it low during stressful situations.

Sleep

According to the Mayo Clinic, sleeping less than six hours a night is associated with increased blood pressure.  And sleeping five hours or less per night puts people at an even higher risk.  The thought is, since sleep regulates the stress hormones, having less sleep would increase stress – leading to high BP.

How to fix    

  • Aim for at least six and upwards of eight hours per night
  • Stop with the video games (Diablo III), TV and other mentally stimulating apps
  • Read boring books (long-winded biographies of dull people will do the trick)
  • Play lullaby or classical music (try the soothing song “A fuoco” from Una Mattina by Ludovico Einaudi)

Stress

During a short period of time (like running for a taxi cab) stress can raise BP.  Elevated BP increases heart rate to ensure extra blood delivery for the working muscles.  But long-term stress is different – the body produces hormones when in stressful situations, which when increased over time, will keep the heart rate good and high.  Tigers and bears just keep following your every move, aren’t they 🙂

How to fix

  • Breathe in.  Breathe out.  Repeat.
  • See above.  Sleeping much?
  • Exercise reduces stress.  See below.

Exercise

Any kind of exercise increases blood pressure during the activity – this is good – we want blood to pump throughout our body in order to deliver oxygen and nutrients (like electrolytes and glucose) to our muscles.  To pump sufficient oxygenated blood to the working muscle, the heart has to pump faster to meet the body’s requirements.  Although exercise raises BP while partaking in the activity, your resting BP will decrease as a result of becoming more fit.  Why?  When you are in shape, your heart has to pump less rapidly to deliver the same amount of nutrients as someone who is out of shape.  Exercise literally conditions the heart to be a better functioning organ – requiring our vessels to be better adept at delivering needs to the muscles.

According to the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, November 2009, just 20 minutes of running on a treadmill or lifting weights lowers blood pressure for ~7 hours of normal physical activity.

How to fix

  • 20 minutes.  2x per week to start.
  • Increase to 30 minutes of cardiovascular work a few times per week and add a strength day.

Nutrition

Foods high in sodium, fat, sugar, and low in fiber will do some serious damage to your arteries and make your heart pump harder than it has to (pumping harder = high BP).  Here are some tips to change your diet today.

How to fix

  • Drink water – leave the bottle at your desk as a reminder.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables: any type you want, just eat them, and often (try fruit with your breakfast and veggies with lunch and with dinner).
  • Men need 38g of fiber per day; women need 24-28g per day.  This comes from fruits, veggies, whole grains and legumes.  In other words, 1 apple has only 4 grams of fiber… Start eating up.
  • Have a heavy salt shaking hand?  Start using other spices like cinnamon for your oatmeal or paprika for your chicken.
  • Cut down on alcohol.  A glass of wine or a beer a few times spread over the course of a week is actually beneficial.  But pounding them all in one night will raise your heart rate and increase BP.

Contact me if you would like a personalized approach to reduce your BP: mbeck@nextjump.com

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