According to Canadian Health Magazine, high blood pressure is the most common health risk issue faced by Canadians today. The Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation reports that 1 in 5 Canadians are affected by high blood pressure, yet 42% have no idea. 9 in 10 Canadians have at least one lifestyle risk factor for heart disease - many of which feel perfectly healthy.
Why do blood pressure readings tell us?
Your blood pressure is a measure of the pressure of your blood flow against the walls of your blood vessels. Blood pressure changes when the heart contracts and relaxes, thus blood pressure is expressed as two numbers:
- Systolic Pressure: The pressure experienced when the heart contracts and forces blood into the blood vessels. This is the higher of the two numbers in a blood pressure reading, and is typically expressed first (eg. a blood pressure reading of 120/70 equals a systolic pressure of 120).
- Diastolic Pessure: The pressure experienced when the heart is relaxed. This is the lower of the two numbers in a blood pressure reading, and is typically expressed second (eg. a blood pressure reading of 120/70 equals a diastolic pressure is 70).
An ideal blood pressure reading should be around 120/70, but healthy blood pressure varies from person to person. For instance, people in particularly good physical health, who exercise regularly, may have lower blood pressure.
“High normal” blood pressure is considered a reading between 130/85 and 139/89. "High normal" blood pressure is more likely to become hypertension at some point. Hypertension is considered 140/90 or higher.
A person's blood pressure varies considerably throughout the day. Your blood pressure is usually lower when you are at rest and higher when you are active. Your blood pressure may vary between lying down vs. standing up. Other factors such as your emotional state, pregnancy, smoking, and medication can also change your blood pressure.
How do I know if I have high blood pressure?
Symptoms of high blood pressure can include headache or flushing in the face. However, often people with high blood pressure have no symptoms at all and thus the risk factor can go undiagnosed, and untreated for years. It is important to have your blood pressure checked regularly (eg. once a year or more, depending on health status) by a health care professional and take the necessary actions to keep your blood pressure within the normal range.
Early warning signs of heart disease often go unnoticed. Preventive health screenings save lives. Contact us or click on the button below to learn more. Hear Steve's story.
Why do so many people have high blood pressure?
Desk jobs, long commutes to work, the fast pace of modern life, and the availability of cheap, unhealthy, salty and satisfying foods (which have been linked to food addiction) has led more people to adopt unhealthy lifestyles than ever before. Many people, for example, mistakenly believe that the foods they consume are within the safe limits of sodium because they don’t add extra table salt to their meals. However, a typical can of (seemingly healthy) vegetable soup may contain up to 1,000 mg of sodium in one cup. That’s nearly half the daily recommended limit of sodium in one small can of soup! Commercial sauces and condiments often contain a lot more sodium than you realize, so it's important to read labels and opt for whole, unprocessed foods as often as possible - or, better yet, make your own! Excess sodium in the bloodstream results in higher blood pressure because it results in fluid accumulation and undue strain on the blood vessels.
What are some tips for lowering blood pressure?
• Reduce your daily intake of sodium to no more than 2,300 mg per day - get in the habit of reading labels when consuming processed, pre-packaged foods. Check out our healthy, low-carb meal planning guide.
• Instead of buying takeout, make wholesome meals at home and take leftovers for lunch.
• Maintain a healthy body weight
• Quit smoking - when it comes to smoking there is no safe amount. Need advice on how to quit? Click here.
• Exercise at least 30 minutes a day most days of the week.
• Set aside time to relax, engage in activities like reading, deep breathing or yoga, or practicing meditation.
• Limit your intake of alcohol (we recommend no more than 9 drinks per week for women and 14 drinks per week for men).
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