Blood pressure is the pressure of circulating blood on the walls of blood vessels. It usually refers to the pressure in large arteries of the systemic circulation. Blood pressure is usually expressed in terms of the systolic pressure (maximum during one heart beat) over diastolic pressure (minimum in between two heart beats) and is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg), above the surrounding atmospheric pressure.
When your heart beats, it squeezes and pushes blood through your arteries to the rest of your body. This force creates pressure on those blood vessels, and that’s your systolic blood pressure.
According to Dr. Gabriel Omonaiye, a normal systolic pressure is below 120. A reading of 120-129 is elevated. 130-139 is stage 1 high blood pressure also called hypertension. 140 or more is stage 2 hypertension and 180 or more is a hypertensive crisis. He said that the diastolic reading, or the bottom number, is the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between beats. This is the time when the heart fills with blood and gets oxygen.
“A normal diastolic blood pressure is lower than 80. But even if your diastolic number is lower than 80, you can have elevated blood pressure if the systolic reading is 120-129. 80-89 is stage 1 hypertension. 90 or more is stage 2 hypertension. 120 or more is a hypertensive crisis.” Omonaiye noted that keeping blood pressure under control can mean adding things to your life, like exercise, that help lower it. It can also mean avoiding things that raise it.
Things that raise blood pressure
You have probably heard that you have to watch the amount of salt you eat, especially if you are concerned about your blood pressure. That’s because it makes your body hold on to water, putting extra stress on your heart and blood vessels.
Omonaiye revealed that salt, worry and anger aren’t the only things that can raise your blood pressure. Although temporary spikes aren’t necessarily a problem, numbers that remain high over time can cause serious damage.
Added sugar may raise your blood pressure especially in a processed form like high-fructose corn syrup. People with more added sugars in their diet see a significant rise in both their upper and lower numbers. Just a bottle of soft drink causes an average 15-point bump in systolic pressure (the top number, or the pressure during a heartbeat) and 9 in diastolic (the bottom number, or the pressure between beats).
This isn’t just about the number of friends you have, it’s about feeling connected. And being stressed or depressed doesn’t fully explain the effect. According to a research, for over 4 years, the upper blood pressure of the loneliest people in a study went up more than 14 points. The researchers think an ongoing fear of rejection and disappointment and feeling more alert about your safety and security may change how your body works.
People with sleep apnea have higher odds of getting high blood pressure and other heart problems. When your breathing is repeatedly interrupted while you are sleeping, your nervous system releases chemicals that raise your blood pressure. In addition, you are getting less oxygen, which could damage blood vessel walls and make it harder for your body to regulate your blood pressure down the road.
Lack of potassium
Dr. Omonaiye stated that your kidneys need a balance of sodium and potassium to keep the right amount of fluid in your blood. “So even if you are eating a low-salt diet, you could still have higher blood pressure if you are not also eating enough fruits, veggies, beans, low-fat dairy, or fish. While bananas are high in potassium, broccoli, spinach, and other leafy greens are better to get potassium if you are watching your weight.”
Do you take ginseng, bitter orange, or other herbal supplements? They can raise your blood pressure or change how your medications work, including drugs to control high blood pressure.
When this gland doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone, your heart rate slows, and your arteries get less stretchy. Low hormone levels also might raise your LDL ‘bad’ cholesterol, another thing that can stiffen arteries.
“Blood moves through hard vessels faster, pushing on the walls and raising the pressure. Though not as common, too much thyroid hormone can make your heart beat harder and faster, which will also bump up your numbers, stated Omonaiye.”
Desire to urinate
Systolic pressure went up an average of about 4 points, and diastolic, 3 points, in a study of middle-aged women who hadn’t gone to the bathroom for at least 3 hours. Men and women of different ages saw similar effects. High blood pressure becomes more likely as you age, so you need to get accurate readings. An empty bladder could be one way to help do that.
Omonaiye revealed that all non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, can raise your blood pressure whether you are healthy or you already have high blood pressure. Though the average rise is only a few points, there’s a wide range, which means it could affect some people much more than others.
Your doctor’s office
You might see a difference if you compare readings during an appointment to the numbers you get at home. Named for the traditional garb of medical professionals, the “white coat effect” is the rise in blood pressure up to 10 points higher for systolic (the upper number) and 5 for diastolic (the lower number) that can happen simply because of where you are. The bump is likely due to nerves or anxiety.
When your body’s cells don’t have enough water, your blood vessels tighten up. This happens because your brain sends a signal to your pituitary gland to release a chemical that shrinks them. And your kidneys make less pee, to hang on to the fluid you do have, which also triggers tiny blood vessels in your heart and brain to squeeze more.
Hormonal birth control
Pills, injections, and other birth control devices use hormones that narrow blood vessels, so it’s possible your blood pressure will go up, says Omonaiye.
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“It’s more likely to be a problem for women who are older than 35, overweight, or smokers. You may want to keep an eye on your blood pressure, checking every 6-12 months. A lower dose of estrogen may keep your numbers closer to normal.”
The higher your resting blood pressure, the higher the numbers go when you start speaking. And the effect lasts for a few minutes. It seems the subject and emotional content of what you are saying matters more than the fact that you are moving your mouth.
Medicines that target brain chemicals like dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin including tricyclic antidepressants can change not only your mood but also your blood pressure.