Blood pressure—the highs and the lows

blood pressure | May 7, 2018 | Author: Naturopath

Blood pressure, Stroke

Blood pressure—the highs and the lows

The pressure that blood exerts on the artery wall is referred to as blood pressure. When the pressure is high in is called hypertension (high blood pressure) and if it is low this is called hypotension (low blood pressure). Blood pressure can fluctuate as it changes to meet your body’s needs and according to environmental demands. For example, it rises during physical exertion and drops in extreme heat.  If blood pressure remains consistently high it can put you at greater risk of stroke, heart attack or kidney disease.

Blood pressure explained

Blood pressure refers to the pressure of circulating blood on the walls of large arteries. When a reading is taken it is recorded as two numbers, i.e. 120/80. The first number represents the pressure in the arteries as the heart pumps out blood during each beat. This is called systolic blood pressure. The lower number refers to your blood pressure when your heart muscle is between beats. This is called your diastolic blood pressure. Both figures are measured in units called millimetres of mercury (mmHg).

Measuring your blood pressure

Measuring your blood pressureBlood pressure is usually measured by wrapping an inflatable pressure cuff around your upper arm, one inch above the crease in the elbow. Air is pumped manually or automatically into the cuff—causing it to inflate. Once tight the cuff will then start to deflate. This cuff is part of a machine called a sphygmomanometer.

Blood pressure readings

Ideally your physician would like your systolic blood pressure above 90/60 mm/Hg but lower than about 140/90. Below is a rough guide of what your blood pressure reading may mean.

  • optimal 120/80
  • normal 120-129/80-84
  • high-normal 130-139/85-89
  • mild hypertension 140-159/90-99
  • moderate hypertension 160-179/100-109
  • severe hypertension ≥180/≥110

High blood pressure

Referred to as “the silent killer”, high blood pressure often has no symptoms. However, a few people with hypertension may experience headache, dizziness or the sudden effects of diseases of the arteries such as chest pain or stroke.

The only way to know that you have elevated blood pressure is to get it checked by your health care provider. If consistent readings come back higher than 140/90 you will most likely be diagnosed with high blood pressure. Your doctor may confirm this by using a 24-hour blood pressure measurement.

High blood pressure that is uncontrolled long-term increases your chances of developing -

Risk factors for high blood pressure

Things that increase your risk of hypertension include:

  • lack of exercise
  • smoking
  • stress
  • being overweight
  • high salt intake
  • poor diet
  • family history of high blood pressure
  • caffeine consumption
  • high alcohol consumption

In a few people, there is an identifiable cause such as narrowing of the arteries of the kidney (renal stenosis) or some hormonal conditions.

Natural therapies to reduce the pressure

Natural therapies to reduce the pressureFor most people the way to manage their blood pressure is by making changes to their diet and lifestyle.

This includes regular exercise and eating a Mediterranean style diet that is low is salt and high in fresh fruit and vegetables.

If you are overweight or obese, reduce your weight to within a healthy range.
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Smoking is another big risk factor and quitting would make a big difference.
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Limit your alcohol intake to no more than two drinks a day for men or one drink a day for women.
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In some people, diet and lifestyle changes are not enough and they may need other alternatives. This may involve a medication or natural alternatives. Some popular supplements which have proven efficacy in blood pressure reduction include:

Fish oil—studies have found that EPA and DHA reduces systolic blood pressure, with more than 2 grams able to reduce diastolic blood pressure.

Garlic—reduces cardiovascular disease by lowering blood pressure and increases levels of antioxidant enzymes.
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Potassium—depletion of this mineral in normal individuals causes the body to retain sodium and increases blood pressure.

Low blood pressure

Having low blood pressure isn’t normally a concern unless it has a negative impact on your body.  In general, you are considered to have low blood pressure if either number measures 30mmHg below your usual blood pressure reading.

Symptoms of low blood pressure include:

  • light-headedness, especially when standing from a sitting or lying position
  • unsteadiness
  • dizziness
  • fainting
  • blurry vision
  • fatigue

Low blood pressure can be caused by many different factors such as stress, dehydration, heat, blood loss and certain medications. However, sometimes an exact cause cannot always be identified, and hypotension just develops over time.

Reduce your risk of hypotension by avoiding prolonged exposure to hot water, such as hot showers or spas. It is also recommended that you avoid standing still or sitting for long periods of time. Lastly, don’t exercise outdoors during summer and in extreme heat.

Natural ways to help increase blood pressure may include:

  • Natural ways to help increase blood pressure may include:Adding a little good quality salt
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  • Make sure you stay well hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids
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  • Licorice (not the candy) has properties which help to increase blood pressure
  • Caffeine, small amounts from good quality sources such as tea, coffee or guarana may cause a spike in blood pressure by stimulating the cardiovascular system
  • Eat small meals more regularly

Orthostatic hypotension

Orthostatic hypotension is a form of low blood pressure that comes on suddenly when you stand. In a healthy person who stands upright from a sitting or lying position, the blood vessels respond to gravity by constricting—causing an increase in blood pressure. In a person with orthostatic hypotension the blood vessels don’t adjust to a standing position and allow the blood pressure to drop.

Causes include:

  • nervous system diseases, such as neuropathy
  • prolonged bed rest
  • dehydration
  • irregular heart beat

Summary

Blood pressure naturally fluctuates and is an important indicator of our health. High blood pressure is very common and can be reduced with a change in diet and lifestyle. Low blood pressure is a relative term—it may cause symptoms in one person, but another may be perfectly healthy.

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References

https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/what-is-a-healthy-blood-pressure

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ConditionsAndTreatments/blood-pressure-low-hypotension

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/blood-pressure

Miller PE, et al. Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid and blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Hypertens. 2014 Jul;27(7):885-96

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24610882

Afolayan AJ, et al. Dietary supplements in the management of hypertension and diabetes - a review. Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 2014 Apr 3;11(3):248-58

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25371590

Leskinen MH, et al. Daily liquorice consumption for two weeks increases augmentation index and central systolic and diastolic blood pressure. PLoS One. 2014 Aug 25;9(8):e105607

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25153328

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