Aim Lower

Blood Pressure Education Month seeks to reduce dangerous highs.

Did you know that the temperature inside the room, talking or simply crossing your legs can cause a spike in your blood pressure? It’s true, and recognizing such facts is why May has been dubbed National High Blood Pressure Education Month.

Sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the goal behind the event is to raise awareness about the impact high blood pressure can have on a person’s health and to educate people on ways they can better control their blood pressure.

To achieve those objectives, it’s important first and foremost to understand how a person’s blood pressure is measured and what constitutes a normal or abnormal blood pressure reading.

Written or expressed as one number over another, a blood pressure reading is the measurement of the pressure read when the heart has pumped (systolic) and the pressure read when the heart is between beats (diastolic).

The systolic number is typically higher than the diastolic, with a normal reading being in the range of 120 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) over 80 mmHg and high blood pressure reading being anything that is 140 mmHg or higher over 90 mmHg or higher.

The higher the numbers in those readings, the more at risk people become for suffering heart disease and stroke, which currently rank as the first and third leading causes of death in the United States respectively.

High blood pressure can also cause congestive heart failure and even kidney disease, and in the U.S. alone one in three people suffer from this condition. Most, though, don’t even know they have it because, unlike a cold or the flu, it has no symptoms.

That’s why it’s important to understand who is most likely to suffer from high blood pressure and what the lifestyle choices are that one can make that can positively or negatively impact a person’s blood pressure.

As far as who is more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, studies show that men and women both suffer from the condition equally, but men under the age of 45 and women over the age of 65 are among those most affected.

Studies also show that in the U.S, where one in every three adults suffers from high blood pressure, the condition is more common among African Americans than Caucasians and Mexican-Americans.

The good news, though, is that high blood pressure can be controlled and not just through medication. For many, a simple change in lifestyle and food choices can help reduce blood pressure levels.

Since a lack of exercise, smoking and alcohol intake can all cause increases in blood pressure, developing an exercise routine, quitting smoking and drinking less are three lifestyle changes that can help lower a person’s blood pressure.

Eating healthier is another. Because a heavy intake of salt can lead to increases in blood pressure, reducing salt intake can reduce blood pressure levels. But less salt is just one of several food choices that one can make to improve their blood pressure levels.

Foods rich in potassium such as bananas, potatoes, fish, green leafy vegetables and citrus fruits are known to lower blood pressure levels, so incorporating more of those into your diet can help you maintain healthy blood pressure levels.

And finally, there are a few things you can do when having your blood pressure checked that can help you get a more accurate reading of your actual blood pressure. They include not talking and not crossing your legs.

Along with the temperature in the room, which can cause a spike in blood pressure if it causes you to feel chilly, talking and crossing your legs while receiving a blood pressure check can also cause blood pressure spikes.

So can caffeine from sodas and coffee, neither of which should be consumed more than 30 minutes prior to receiving a blood pressure check, a full bladder, your emotional state or sitting in a position where neither your legs nor your back are supported.

Any of those can cause a spike of 10 mmHg or more in the systolic reading of a person’s blood pressure, and as we now know, that 10 mmHg spike could be the difference between receiving a normal blood pressure reading and an abnormal one.

Authors:

Roy Cummings
Roy Cummings

About Roy Cummings

Roy Cummings is a native of Chicago, Illinois who grew up in the suburb of Lombard. He and his family later moved to Lakeland, Florida, where Roy attended high school at Kathleen High. He graduated from the University of South Florida with a Bachelor's Degree in Mass Communications in 1983 and immediately went to work for the Tampa Tribune. After five years working in a Polk County bureau covering everything from high school sports to college football to the Orlando Magic of the NBA, Roy moved back to Tampa and became the Tribune's first beat writer for the Tampa Bay Lightning, covering the team from its inception through the first eight years on the ice. He was then moved to the Buccaneers beat, where he stayed until the paper was folded in May, 2016. A two-time Florida Sports Writer of the Year, Roy has extensive experience covering all Tampa professional sports teams, including the Tampa Bay Rays.

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