Why blood pressure matters

You hear so much about blood pressure and how important it is to keep yours within a healthy range. But why is blood pressure so important to our bodies?

You hear so much about blood pressure and how important it is to keep yours within a healthy range. But why is blood pressure so important to our bodies?

Blood pressure readings measure two things: the force that pushes on the walls of your blood vessels as they carry blood and oxygen to your organs (systolic pressure) and the force that’s created when your heart rests between beats (diastolic pressure). If you’re looking at a blood pressure reading of 120/80, the systolic pressure is the first number and the diastolic pressure is the second one. If either of these pressures is too high, it means that too much pressure is being put on the walls of your blood vessels. This can lead to stressed arteries that could develop weak spots or scars over time, which can cause increased plaque buildup and raise your risk of blood clots.

Think of your blood pressure like the air pressure in tires. If the air pressure goes too high, the tire could pop. That’s why it’s so important to keep an eye on your blood pressure and make sure it’s not getting too high.

High blood pressure (HBP) can be deadly. It’s sometimes called "the silent killer" because it has no symptoms. The only way to know you have it is to have it checked regularly.

HBP is the single biggest risk factor for heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular problems. If it’s left untreated it could lead to heart attack, heart disease, congestive heart failure, atherosclerosis (fatty buildup in the arteries that causes them to harden), stroke, kidney damage, vision loss, erectile dysfunction, memory loss, fluid in the lungs, chest pain or discomfort and peripheral artery disease.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to keep your blood pressure within a healthy range. Be sure you get your blood pressure checked regularly by your healthcare provider. Adopt a healthy lifestyle by eating a better diet, enjoying regular physical activity, reaching and maintaining a healthy weight, taking any prescription medicines as instructed by your doctor, not smoking and limiting alcohol intake. A healthy lifestyle can reduce, prevent or delay the development of HBP, enhance the effectiveness of blood pressure medicines and lower your risk of heart disease, heart attack, stroke and kidney disease.

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