Blood Pressure Basics!
Blood Pressure Basics!
Dr. Claire Arcidiacono, ND
Blood pressure is something that we all have. Keeping our blood pressure healthy is a concern that affects people of all ages. While it may be easy to write off high blood pressure as just something that “older people” need to worry about this is just not true. High blood pressure can affect people of all ages. In 2021 it was found that nearly half of all adults had high blood pressure! (1) This is a huge problem as high blood pressure is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
Let’s start simple. What is blood pressure? It is simply put the pressure of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries. It consists of 2 parts, a top number or systolic number and a bottom number or diastolic number. Basically the systolic blood pressure is when the heart is actively contracting or is “working”. The diastolic pressure is when the heart is resting between the contractions. Blood pressure can vary throughout the day. It can also vary if you are feeling stress or when you exercise. This is why it is important to try and be calm and relaxed when your blood pressure is taken. This can help to avoid falsely high blood pressure readings. Blood pressure can be broken down into 5 categories. These range from normal, elevated to a hypertensive crisis. Anyone experiencing a hypertensive crisis should call 911 or got to the ER. This is a very dangerous situation and places you at risk of a stroke. It is better to be safe than sorry! For a breakdown of the different categories please see the attached graph. (2)
|BLOOD PRESSURE CATEGORY||SYSTOLIC mm Hg (upper number)||and/or||DIASTOLIC mm Hg (lower number)|
|NORMAL||LESS THAN 120||and||LESS THAN 80|
|ELEVATED||120 – 129||and||LESS THAN 80|
|HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE (HYPERTENSION) STAGE 1||130 – 139||or||80 – 89|
|HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE (HYPERTENSION) STAGE 2||140 OR HIGHER||or||90 OR HIGHER|
|HYPERTENSIVE CRISIS (consult your doctor immediately)||HIGHER THAN 180||and/or||HIGHER THAN 120|
One of the biggest stumbling blocks when it comes to high blood pressure is that it is often asymptomatic. This means you can have very high blood pressure and not know it. Now possible symptoms can include a buzzing in the ears as well as headaches and feeling dizzy. I encourage anyone with these symptoms to monitor their blood pressure. Other signs can include nausea, vomiting, anxiety, confusion, nosebleeds and even more severe symptoms such as chest pain and a change in your heart rhythm. (3) However as I have said very often there are no signs that your blood pressure is high and the only way to know your blood pressure is high is to check it.
What are some of the risk factors for developing high blood pressure? While I’m hesitant to label pregnancy as a risk factor for any disorder the fact is that Pre- eclampsia is a disorder that is characterized by an increase in blood pressure during pregnancy. If left untreated it can have severe consequences. It is also a risk factor for developing high blood pressure outside of pregnancy. (4) Other risk factors for developing high blood pressure include family history, age and stress levels. Lifestyle risk factors can include lack of activity, smoking, poor diet and being overweight or obese. Alcohol consumption can also increase the risk for high blood pressure. (3)
Certain chronic conditions are also considered risk factors for high blood pressure. This is usually referred to as secondary hypertension. Any chronic disease that affects the kidneys will also affect the blood pressure. An example of kidney disease would be poly-cystic kidney disease or diabetic nephropathy. Any medical conditions that affect certain hormones can also affect high blood pressure. This includes thyroid disorders and disorders of the adrenal glands such as Cushing’s, or Aldosterone’s and even having adrenal fatigue can affect blood pressure. (5)
Do you remember the picture of the heart where the aorta was? Well in a certain birth defect known as coarctation of the aorta this artery is very narrow and this narrowing increases the pressure needed to move blood around the body. (6) A very common and well known risk factor is sleep apnea. I get asked all the time if sleep apnea is really that dangerous and the answer is yes. (7) Lastly certain medications can raise blood pressure.
Unfortunately just like with symptoms sometimes having high blood pressure has no discernible cause. In other words while we may be able to work with you to lower your blood pressure in some cases we may never know the “root cause”. In my humble opinion and experience keeping you healthy is more important than knowing the cause in some situations. Now what are some things that studies have found to help blood pressure?
- Life style changes – there are certain life style concerns that can increase blood pressure. Eliminating these can help with our blood pressure. These include losing weight and increasing our activity. Changing our diet to include more fruits and vegetables is also helpful. Stopping smoking and reducing alcohol intake are also some life style changes that can help blood pressure. (8)
- Treat any underlying health concerns – for example check out my series on diabetes!
- Magnesium has been found to be very helpful in reducing blood pressure. (9) Magnesium is found in our Magnesium Glycinate, Magnesium Citrate, Bioavail Magnesium Complex and even in our Cardio Hx!
- Beets are an amazing power house when it comes to health! One of their many benefits is to help with blood pressure. Studies have found that beets can and do lower blood pressure! (10) Please see Invite’s Beets Hx for this amazing nutrient!
- Hawthorne is a well-known nutrient when it comes to heart health. Thus it should come as no surprise that studies find it is helpful when normalizing blood pressure! (11) Please see Invite’s Cardio Hx and our Normo-tensive formulas!
- Grape seed is another nutrient that is helpful in a number of areas. Once again it is no surprise that this powerful antioxidant has been found to help with our blood pressure. (12) Please see Invite’s Grape Seed Extract!
- Celery seed may come as a surprise to some people but it has been found to help with many health concerns such as blood pressure. (13) Please see Invite’s Normo-tensive
- Omega 3s will be one nutrient that will be coming up quite frequently in our conversation on heart health. One of the first things that I reach for when talking about blood pressure is a good source of Omega 3s. In addition to its many benefits studies have shown that Omega 3s are a strong help in helping normalizing blood pressure. (14) Please see Invite’s Fish Oil and Krill Oil Advanced!
In my next blog I will be highlighting a supplement for blood pressure that you may not expect! I won’t tell you now, but let’s just say it’s one of my favorites!
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hypertension Cascade: Hypertension Prevalence, Treatment and Control Estimates Among U.S. Adults Aged 18 Years and Older Applying the Criteria from the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association’s 2017 Hypertension Guideline—NHANES 2017–2020
- . Atlanta, GA: May 12, 2023. Accessed July 6, 2023.