For years I would get my blood pressure taken at the doctors in my regular checks, but have no idea what it meant. I would just be told that it was fine and that was it. But as blood pressure is a useful marker of health, I wanted to know a bit more. When other people told me what their blood pressure was I had no idea whether it was ‘good’ or ‘bad’ because I didn’t understand the numbers.
I knew that high blood pressure was generally a bad thing, but what started happening to my blood pressure was that it was actually getting too low and I was starting to get dizzy spells.
So I decided to go off and find out a bit more about what those numbers meant. The first, or top number, is your systolic blood pressure – the highest pressure created when you heart beats and pushes the blood around the body. The lower or second number is your diastolic blood pressure, or the lowest pressure when your heart is relaxing between beats.
This blood pressure chart from Blood Pressure UK shows how to assess those numbers:
Obviously it’s important to discuss things with your doctor, however I know that home blood pressure testing machines have become more popular so that readings can be taken at different times of the day, and in a more relaxing environment. Health-on-Line have provided some useful information on their blog which includes some tips for talking your blood pressure yourself.
High blood pressure is an issue because of the additional strain it puts on your vital organs such as your heart and brain. It’s even more of a problem if you have other issues such as diabetes. Being overweight, stressed and not getting enough exercise can lead to high blood pressure, as can eating too much salt, possibly from processed foods, more on this in a mo! Age and family history can also play a part (source). Even if blood pressure isn’t an issue for you now, living a healthy life will help to lower the chances of it developing as you age. If you do have it, lifestyle changes can have a big impact. I’ve also heard some good reports on the DASH eating plan. Eating all the usual healthy foods like lots of vegetables, especially leafy greens will help, also getting your antioxidants from berries and fats from almonds.
What I have noticed is that a few women my age have more of an issue with lower blood pressure. Low blood pressure in itself is not a risk (source), however the dizzy spells and feeling faint aren’t something you really want to be having to deal with all the time! I believe that active people that eat a very healthy diet high in vegetables and fruit, might actually be not getting enough salt as the main source of salt in most peoples diets is that added to processed packed foods. You can read more about salt restriction in this article from Chris Kresser.
Do you know what your blood pressure is? What is your view on salt in the diet?
*post in association with Health-on-Line
I have always had trouble checking my blood pressure as I am a very nervous person, and so my blood pressure goes through the roof when I go to the doctors(once it was 180/100 and the doctor told me they would actually have to hospitalise me if that was my actual normal blood pressure)- several times I have had to take a blood pressure machine home and record measurements for a week (at different times of the day) so they can check I am OK, and now I have my own machine so every now and then I take a few readings to check. I think actually I have slightly low blood pressure as I will sometimes feel dizzy- for example if I crouch down for a while (sorting out a kitchen cupboard or something) and then stand up again quickly.
What you say about salt is really interesting- as I don’t tend to eat many ready made things I think I get most of my salt from cheese, which I don’t have every day. If I run long in the summer I get very dehydrated (and get my face and body covered in dried salt) so I use rehydration tabs and also make sure I eat something salty- at the moment popchips! But I suppose if I was eating the average diet of ready made breakfast cereal or a couple of slices of toast, sandwiches or microwave meals at lunch etc then I would have plenty.
A similar thing happened to someone I know, she had the monitor on her for a few days as well. It is good that they are able to do that! I definitely think the salt thing is interesting. I used to be scared to add it, but I naturally like salty things, but it just goes to show as whenever I eat a ready meal or packed food it tastes too salty even for me! I like adding tamari and pink salt to foods now without worrying about it :-)