Uncontrolled high blood pressure levels (or hypertension) are a leading risk factor for heart attack and stroke. Often, there are no symptoms, which is why hypertension is called the “silent killer.” You may not know you have it unless you have your blood pressure checked regularly.
What Do Blood Pressure Numbers Mean?
Your blood pressure reflects how hard your heart has to work to pump adequate blood through your arteries. Each contraction of your heart pumps out a wave of oxygen-rich blood that causes the flexible arterial walls to expand. After the wave passes, the walls deflate. The intensity of this sequence is your blood pressure. The first number is your systolic reading (the pressure of the blood against arterial walls at the wave’s peak), and the second number is the diastolic reading (the pressure when the wave passes).
Years ago, we thought a reading of 140/88 was the upper limit of normal. These days, a reading that high is unacceptable. Research shows that you want your systolic pressure to be in the 120s and your diastolic pressure to be in the high 70s or low 80s.
Unfortunately, our arteries become more rigid and calcified as we age, making it harder to attain these optimum blood pressure levels. Think of your arteries as rivers full of twists and turns. Just as the force of rushing high water can eat away at the bank of a river, high blood pressure levels have a potentially damaging effect on the inner layer of the arterial wall. The arteries are especially vulnerable where they bend or form branches.
Causes of High Blood Pressure Levels
The leading causes of high blood pressure levels include stress, genetics, being overweight, a high-sugar diet, heavy metal toxicity and lack of regular exercise. Stress-related hormones, for instance, cause the peripheral vessels to constrict. This forces the heart to pump harder in order to move blood through the narrowed channels, and leads to more pressure at the bends.
Obviously, it’s better to prevent hypertension than to have to treat it. For more information on natural ways to lower high blood pressure levels, visit www.drsinatra.com. While there, sign up for FREE e-letters or subscribe to Dr. Sinatra’s monthly newsletter, Heart, Health & Nutrition.