Healthy Blood Pressure
About 1 in 8 Canadians have high blood pressure and many do not realize it. Some factors that can increase your risk for high blood pressure include heredity, age, diabetes, and cholesterol.
Blood pressure is represented by two numbers, systolic and diastolic. The top number, or systolic pressure, is the pressure when your heart is at work; and the bottom number, or diastolic pressure, is when your heart is at rest. Because high blood pressure has few symptoms, knowing your blood pressure is key to early and effective treatment.
Blood pressure guidelines are just that – guidelines. Your target blood pressure may be different because of various factors such as age, and other health considerations. In general the guidelines are:
- 120/80 – optimal
- 130/85 – high normal
- 140/90 – high blood pressure
Some Myths about Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is often taken for granted and many myths surround it. These myths are NOT true:
MYTH: Blood pressure only affects the heart.
FACT: Blood pressure is the pressure throughout the cardiovascular system which includes all blood vessels. As well, blood flows throughout the body and can affect organs such as the kidneys.
MYTH: Blood pressure readings only need to be close.
FACT: Because high blood pressure has no symptoms, sometimes it is assumed that blood pressure is fine, when it is actually elevated.
MYTH: People don’t die from high blood pressure.
FACT: Hypertension is a contributing factor in heart attacks, strokes, and many other conditions that can be fatal.
MYTH: Blood pressure medication makes you feel worse.
FACT: Medication side effects can be problematic, but by working with your pharmacist and physician, you should be able to find blood pressure medication that is effective and well tolerated.
MYTH: Men are more at risk for high blood pressure.
FACT: At one time, men were more at risk for hypertension and its complications, however today, women have equal risk.
MYTH: Reducing your caffeine intake will solve blood pressure problems.
FACT: In some people, caffeine does have the ability to raise blood pressure temporarily, but a more effective way to cope with high blood pressure is to eat a high fibre, low fat diet, become more physically active, and to stop smoking.
MYTH: You need to feel symptoms to have high blood pressure.
FACT: Hypertension is known as the “silent killer” because few, if any, symptoms are evident. Regular blood pressure checks and knowing how to reduce your risk for elevated levels are key to preventing hypertension.
For more information on high blood pressure visit the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada at www.heartandstroke.ca.