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Let’s Talk Blood Pressure

Earlier this month, the American Medical Association announced new guidelines defining blood pressure ranges. Based on this report, nearly half of all Americans are now being classified as having high blood pressure.

But let’s back up a bit and start with the basics.

What is blood pressure?

When your heart beats, it is pumping blood throughout your body. Blood pressure measures the force of the blood against your artery walls as it flows through them. When your blood pressure is high, it means your arteries are receiving too much pressure on a consistent basis. It can also indicate a strain on your heart, which is why monitoring your blood pressure is so important.

Systolic vs. Diastolic

When you have your blood pressure measured, you see two numbers.

The top number is your systolic blood pressure. This measures the pressure of blood pumping through your blood vessels. You know how the nurse has to tighten that cuff around your arm to get your blood pressure reading? That’s because they need to get the pressure to be higher than your systolic pressure.

The bottom number is your diastolic blood pressure. This number represents the pressure in your arteries between heartbeats (your heart is resting).

So what exactly does this newest report from the AMA say? High blood pressure is now considered to be above 130 (systolic) and above 80 (diastolic). Previous to this, high blood pressure was defined as being above 140/90. So now, people who previously were considered to have a normal blood pressure reading are facing a high blood pressure reading.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean medical action is needed; it’s probably just time for some lifestyle modifications. Think exercising to strengthen your heart, eating a nutritious and heart-healthy diet (omega-3’s anyone?), as well as a diet low-salt, losing weight if overweight, and watching your alcohol consumption. Of course, check with your doctor along the way.

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