What Your Blood Pressure Tells You About Your Heart Health

What does high blood pressure have to do with your health? Some experts argue, everything.

According to the CDC, the No. 1 cause of death is heart disease, and the No. 1 cause of heart disease and stroke is high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

“High blood pressure can cause many health problems in the long term,” said Caleb Lindstrom, DO, Family Medicine Resident at McLaren Greater Lansing Family Medicine. “The repeated and constant stress placed on your blood vessels puts you at increased risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and death.”

Your heart carries oxygen and nutrients throughout your body with every contraction of your heartbeat. The force of your blood traveling through your body in the blood vessels is your blood pressure.

Your blood pressure is measured by two numbers — the top number (systolic) and the bottom number (diastolic) — and those numbers should be less than 120/80. If your blood pressure is consistently higher than normal, you have high blood pressure.

“Many things can contribute to high blood pressure, including having a diet high in salt, low levels of physical activity, obesity, family history, stress, and anxiety,” said Dr. Lindstrom. “There is a genetic component to hypertension, so if you have family members with hypertension, you are predisposed to having high blood pressure.”

Other conditions that increase risk of high blood pressure include diabetes, kidney disease, sleep apnea, and some hormone abnormalities. Preeclampsia during pregnancy can also increase your risk for developing hypertension later in life.

Regularly monitoring your blood pressure is vital in your overall health. If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, there are many options for high blood pressure management.

“We encourage our patients to make lifestyle changes to help lower their blood pressure. These can include maintaining a diet low in sodium with plenty of fruits and vegetables, getting at least 30 minutes of exercise daily, quit smoking, and finding ways to lower stress levels such as meditation, spending time outdoors, yoga, or time with friends,” said Dr. Lindstrom. “There are also medications that can help manage high blood pressure if it’s not improving after making lifestyle changes.”

There are times when high blood pressure (or hypertensive crisis) could be an emergency. If you experience any of the following, you should seek medical care immediately:

  • Your systolic (top number) is greater than 180
  • Your diastolic (bottom number) is greater than 120
  • You’re experiencing vision changes, shortness of breath, chest pain, headache, or lightheadedness due to high blood pressure

As always, it’s important to see your primary care provider for your annual exams to make sure your blood pressure, cholesterol, and other measures of health are staying in the normal ranges.

If you have high blood pressure and would like to talk with a doctor about your options, please click here for a list of McLaren providers accepting new patients.

Click here to read more articles on health and wellness.