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Sharp Health News

What your blood pressure tells you

Feb. 24, 2017

What your blood pressure tells you

Sharp cardiologist Dr. Mariusz Wysoczanski counsels his patients about the importance of heart health, including controlling blood pressure.

Blood pressure. You probably hear those two words every time you see your doctor. That’s because it’s one of the most important aspects of your health to be aware of, especially if you have a personal or family history of heart disease.

In 2015, researchers ended a major National Institutes of Health-sponsored trial on blood pressure control early, after discovering that lowering blood pressure by 20 points resulted in a 30 percent reduction in the risk of heart attack, heart failure and stroke.

Dr. Mariusz Wysoczanski, a cardiologist at Sharp Chula Vista Medical Center, explains what blood pressure is and why it’s important.

What do my blood pressure numbers mean?
When your doctor or nurse reads your blood pressure, they share two numbers — for example, 120/80, which is normal. The top number is your systolic blood pressure, which indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls when the heart beats. The bottom number is your diastolic blood pressure, which indicates how much pressure your blood is exerting against your artery walls while the heart is at rest between beats.

What does it mean if my blood pressure is high?
High blood pressure (hypertension) means there is too much resistance in the arteries, which can cause stress and damage to the blood vessels. Uncontrolled or undetected high blood pressure can lead to heart attack, stroke, heart failure, kidney disease or failure, vision loss, sexual dysfunction, chest pain, and peripheral artery disease (PAD). There are different stages of high blood pressure recognized by the American Heart Association (AHA), ranging from prehypertension (also called early-stage high blood pressure) to hypertensive crisis, which requires emergency medical attention.

What if my blood pressure is low?
In a healthy person, low blood pressure (hypotension) is a good sign, as long as systolic pressure is above 80, and the person tolerates a low blood pressure. In someone with heart disease, low blood pressure may be a cause for concern as it could signal heart failure. There are other reasons someone could have low blood pressure, including bed rest, pregnancy, blood loss, certain medications, infection, allergic reaction and anemia. The key cause for concern with low blood pressure is the presence of other symptoms, such as dizziness, nausea or fainting due to dehydration.

How can I change my blood pressure numbers?
I love to hear this question from patients because there are many ways we can control blood pressure together. The following are the most effective, most important strategies:

  • Eat a well-balanced, low-salt diet (DASH diet is recommended by the AHA)
  • Limit alcohol
  • Quit smoking
  • Get regular physical exercise
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Take medications prescribed by your doctor

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