Nearly half of all adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure. Having high blood pressure can put you at risk for health concerns down the road. Managing blood pressure now is the best way to prevent those health problems from occurring later on.
Knowing your numbers is an important part of managing your blood pressure. But what do these numbers mean? Read on to learn more about what blood pressure is, how to get accurate readings, and how you can improve your numbers.
What is blood pressure?
Your blood pressure (or “BP”) is a measure of both your systolic and diastolic blood pressures.
- Systolic blood pressure (the first number) measures the force your heart exerts on the walls of your arteries every time it beats.
- Diastolic blood pressure (the second number) measures the force your heart exerts on the walls of your arteries when the heart is resting between each beat.
- High blood pressure is also called hypertension. This happens when the force of blood flowing through your vessels is consistently higher than recommended.
What is the normal range for a blood pressure reading?
A normal reading is less than 120/80 mmHg.
What risk factors influence blood pressure?
- Being overweight or obese
- Not being physically active
- A diet high in sodium (salt)
- A diet low in potassium (found in fruits and vegetables)
- Drinking too much alcohol
- Having certain chronic conditions like diabetes, kidney disease, or sleep apnea
To ensure the most accurate blood pressure reading at home, follow these tips:
- Avoid drinking anything with caffeine, smoking, or being active within 30 minutes of checking.
- Sit quietly in a restful state for at least 5 minutes prior to your check.
- Check your posture. Sit with your back straight and supported, like upright in a chair. Keep both feet flat on the ground; do not cross your legs.
- Arm should rest comfortably at heart level.
- Check your blood pressure at the same time each day.
- Avoid measuring blood pressure over any clothes. Roll up your sleeves or wear a short-sleeve shirt.
What can I do to help lower my blood pressure?
- Eat a balanced diet rich in fruits and veggies.
- Look for processed foods that are lower in sodium.
- Make physical activity a part of your daily routine.
- Find ways to manage stress.
- Limit alcohol intake.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Avoid smoking.
- Take medications as prescribed by your doctor.
- Check in with your doctor and Livongo coach. They will help you make progress toward reaching your heart health goals.