You’re under pressure . . . well, your blood is anyway!
May is National High Blood Pressure Education Month. During May, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) works to raise awareness of the negative effects of high blood pressure, a condition many don’t even know they have. High blood pressure has become known as “the silent killer” as it often has no warning signs or symptoms.
Your blood pressure is the force of the blood on the blood vessels as blood flows through. From whathealth.com, “Written as two figures, blood pressure is measured as the pressure when the heart has pumped (systolic) and when the heart is in between beats (diastolic). When the heart pumps blood, blood pressure is higher than when it is in between beats. The systolic measurement will be higher than the diastolic measurement.” The “pressure” measured is the way your blood is pressing against the walls of your arteries.
Because there are no warning signs or symptoms of high blood pressure, one can only know if it is present by having a medical professional measure blood pressure using a sphygmomanometer (blood pressure cuff). According to science.howstuffworks.com, “When the doctor puts the cuff around your arm and pumps it up, what he/she is doing is cutting off the blood flow with the pressure exerted by the cuff. As the pressure in the cuff is released, blood starts flowing again and the doctor can hear the flow in the stethoscope. The number at which blood starts flowing (120) is the measure of the maximum output pressure of the heart (systolic reading). The doctor continues releasing the pressure on the cuff and listens until there is no sound. That number (80) indicates the pressure in the system when the heart is relaxed (diastolic reading).”
This same resource equates our blood vessels and arteries to “pipes”. “If the numbers are too high, it means that the heart is having to work too hard because of restrictions in the pipes. Certain hormones, like adrenaline (which is released when you are under stress) cause certain blood vessels to constrict, and this raises your blood pressure — if you are under constant stress, your blood pressure goes up, and it means that your heart has to work too hard. Other things that can increase the blood pressure include deposits in the pipes and a loss of elasticity as the blood vessels age.”
Some facts and statistics about high blood pressure in the United States, as provided by the CDC, include:
* Having high blood pressure puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke, which are leading causes of death in the United States.
* About 75 million American adults (32%) have high blood pressure—that’s 1 in every 3 adults.
* About 1 in 3 American adults has prehypertension—blood pressure numbers that are higher than normal—but not yet in the high blood pressure range.
* Only about half (54%) of people with high blood pressure have their condition under control.
* High blood pressure was a primary or contributing cause of death for more than 410,000 Americans in 2014—that’s more than 1,100 deaths each day.
* High blood pressure costs the nation $48.6 billion each year. This total includes the cost of health care services, medications to treat high blood pressure, and missed days of work.
If you have checked your blood pressure and know your level, here’s how to know where you stand:
systolic: less than 120 mmHg
diastolic: less than 80mmHg
At risk (prehypertension)
systolic: 120–139 mmHg
diastolic: 80–89 mmHg
systolic: 140 mmHg or higher
diastolic: 90 mmHg or higher
Unhealthy behaviors can contribute to high blood pressure. Unhealthy behaviors can include (from CDC):
* Smoking tobacco.
* Eating foods high in sodium and low in potassium.
* Not getting enough physical activity.
* Being obese.
* Drinking too much alcohol.
The American Heart Association encourages lifestyle changes to control blood pressure:
* Eat a well-balanced, low-salt diet
* Limit alcohol
* Enjoy regular physical activity
* Manage stress
* Maintain a healthy weight
* Quit smoking
* Take your medications properly
* Work together with your doctor
Yoga and meditation can be part of the healthy lifestyle changes to help control blood pressure. From yogauonline.com, “Recent studies indicate that keeping your muscles flexible and pliant, e.g. through regular yoga stretches, may also help keep the arteries pliable and thereby lower blood pressure naturally. A study in the American Journal of Physiology has found that, among people 40 years old and older, performance on the sit-and-reach test could be used to assess the flexibility of the arteries. This simple test of being able to touch your toes from a sitting position, may indicate the degree of arterial stiffness, which often precedes cardiovascular disease. According to the authors, stretching exercises may set into motion physiological reactions that slow down age-related arterial stiffening.”
They further report, “Yoga has a profound effect on mind, body, and spirit. The biochemical changes associated with yoga according to studies conducted in Sweden and India can lower blood pressure naturally by reducing stress and other risks factors for high blood pressure such as: obesity, high blood sugar, triglycerides, low HDL, and waist circumference. From this research, yoga shows great promise as a remedy for reducing high blood pressure naturally.”
Sunrise Yoga offers classes for all levels of experience. Let us help you find the class and learn the poses that can help you control your blood pressure. This is the month to make the commitment to your health and well being.