Blood pressure – force of blood against the artery walls

Women having blood pressure measured

Blood pressure measures precisely what it implies – the pressure or force of blood against the artery walls. This measurement is important in managing overall health. Recorded as a ratio of two numbers, readings include systolic pressure (the top number that represents the force of blood when the heart is beating) and diastolic pressure (the bottom number that represents the force of blood when the heart is at rest).

According to the American Heart Association, normal levels should be around 120/80. However, about one-third of all adults have high blood pressure. Also known as hypertension, high blood pressure doesn’t have one identifiable cause. Some cases are brought on by a coexisting medical condition or as a side effect of certain medications. Low blood pressure, or hypotension, can be caused by any number of factors. Dehydration, infection, allergies, poor diet, pregnancy and some coexisting medical conditions have all been linked to low blood pressure.

Understanding low blood pressure

Low blood pressure, or hypotension, happens when levels dips below 120/80. It can be brought on by dehydration, infection, allergies, poor diet, pregnancy and some coexisting medical conditions. According to the American Heart Association, symptoms of this include:

  • Dizziness/feeling lightheaded
  • Fainting
  • Dehydration
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue

If left untreated, hypotension can increase the likelihood of sustaining an injury due to falling from fainting. It can also rob the body of oxygen, leading to heart and/or brain damage.

Understanding high blood pressure

High blood pressure, or hypertension, is generally defined by a blood pressure reading that is higher than 120/80. The American Heart Association reports that about 30 percent of adults in the U.S. suffer from high blood pressure. In most cases, symptoms of hypertension don’t come about until blood pressure has already reached critically high levels. As such, experts recommended keeping up with regular checkups to monitor blood pressure. According to the American Heart Association, certain risk factors may increase the likelihood of developing high blood pressure. This includes:

  • Family history
  • Natural aging
  • Poor diet/too much sodium
  • Lack of exercise
  • Being overweight
  • Drug/alcohol use
  • Stress

High blood pressure can be dangerous and can lead to heart failure, stroke, heart attack, kidney problems, vision loss or metabolic syndrome. In some cases, high blood pressure can even impact cognition.

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