- Blood Pressure (Hypotension and Hypertension)
- What is a blood pressure reading and what do the two numbers mean?
- What exactly happens when my doctor or nurse takes my blood pressure?
- How is blood pressure produced?
- How does my body keep to a normal and healthy blood pressure?
- What does it mean if I have low blood pressure (hypotension)?
- What does it mean if I have high blood pressure (hypertension)?
How does my body keep to a normal and healthy blood pressure?
Most of our bodies are very clever in managing to normally maintain healthy blood pressure readings, telling the heart when to pump more or less blood in order to function at peak performance. The communication happens because of small nerve cells called baroreceptors, these lie within arteries close to the heart. They 'communicate' with the kidneys, arteries, veins and the heart to increase, decrease or maintain the blood pressure.
When your blood pressure becomes too high, the baroreceptors tell the veins to expand and return less blood to the heart, lowering the blood flow and blood pressure. The veins can also become narrower and send more blood to the heart and in turn, increase the blood pressure. The baroreceptors tell the arteries the same thing, to constrict when the pressure is too low to raise it and to relax when the pressure is too high in order to lower it.
Just a quick note, arteries and veins have two different jobs to do. Arteries are responsible for transporting oxygenated blood away from the heart to the body and veins carry the deoxygenated blood back from the body to the heart. An easy way to remember this is the ‘a’ for arteries stands for A for AWAY!
How can I help my body to maintain a healthy blood pressure reading?
While our bodies are naturally adept at maintaining healthy blood pressure, there are factors which can influence it negatively, resulting in an imbalance and either high or low blood pressure.
To help your body to maintain optimaly blood pressure, is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle and diet. This means:
- Exercising regularly - exercise offers a host of blood pressure benefits. It not only stimulates the release of nitric acid which causes blood vessles to dilate, reducing blood pressure, but it also lowers stress, strengthens the heart muscle and aids in weight loss, all of which have a positive influence on blood pressure.
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet - a diet rich in protein, fruit, vegetables and whole grains that is low in fat and refined sugars can help to lower the risk of high blood pressure and help to return elevated blood pressure to normal.
- Losing excess weight (if necessary) - carrying excess weight increases blood pressure and increases the risk of developing diabetes and heart disease.
- Avoid or quit smoking - Nicotine causes the constriction (narrowing) of blood vessels, which in turn elevates blood pressure.
- Avoid excessive alcohol consumption - Alcohol elevates blood pressure and adds empty calories to your diet which promotes weight gain. Women should not drink more than one alcoholic beverage per day, and men no more than two.