How to lower your blood pressure

EP 4: Blood Pressure 101

April 26, 2019

Show Notes

For those that are new to the podcast, welcome, we are two ICU nurses here to educate you on topics ranging from mindfulness, wellness, and nursing. We not only talk about our careers as nurses but also our lives outside the field.

In today's episode, we will talk about the different stages of Blood Pressure control, the signs of high blood pressure, risks, and lifestyle modifications to help you keep optimal blood pressure. 

Blood Pressure

Your heart beats 100,000 times a day, 35 million times a year. During an average lifetime, the human heart will beat more than three billion times.

The ability of most cardiac muscle cells to reproduce disappears in humans and all other mammals shortly after birth. So you only have one heart, learn to take care of it properly.

How the blood flows through the heart: *Simplified*

Organs/body > veins > right atrium > tricuspid valve > right ventricle > pulmonary valve > lungs > left atrium >Mitral valve> left ventricle > aortic valve> arteries > heart/body/organs

Everyone wants good blood pressure but what exactly is it?

Blood pressure is as it sounds, it is the pressure in which your blood pumps at to deliver blood to the rest of your body. Blood pressure is expressed as one number over the other measured in millimeters of mercury.

Ideally, you want your numbers to be less than 120/80 mm Hg. Anything above is considered hypertensive. Since November of 2017, the guidelines have changed based on the American Heart Association.

The top number is the Systolic, this shows the amount of pressure in your arteries when the heart contracts, or squeezes to push the blood.

The bottom number is Diastolic, this is the pressure when your heart is relaxed. It is not actively pushing blood out. It is the filling phase when the heart gets filled with blood.

blood pressure

Signs Of High Blood Pressure

An elevated reading may or may not be accompanied by one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Severe headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Vision changes/problems
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue or confusion

The consequences of uncontrolled blood pressure in this range can be severe and include:

  • Loss of consciousness
  • Memory loss
  • Heart attack
  • Damage to the eyes
  • Loss of kidney function
  • Aortic dissection
  • Angina (unstable chest pain)
  • Eclampsia

Risk factors you can control (1):

  • High blood pressure
  • Abnormal cholesterol
  • Tobacco/Alcohol use
  • Diabetes
  • Decreasing the blood vessels' ability to stretch
  • Increasing the amount of fluid in the body
  • Changing the way the body manages insulin
  • Overweight
  • Physical inactivity

Risk factors beyond your control:

  • Age (55 or older for men; 65 or older for women)
  • Family history of early heart disease (having a father or  brother diagnosed with heart disease before age 55 or having a mother or sister diagnosed before age 65)

Tips to lower your blood pressure:

Blood pressure often increases as weight increases- Being overweight also can cause disrupted breathing while you sleep (sleep apnea), which further raises your blood pressure.

Weight loss is one of the most effective lifestyle changes in controlling blood pressure. Losing even a small amount of weight if you're overweight or obese can help reduce your blood pressure. According to Mayo Clinic, you may reduce your blood pressure by about 1 millimeter of mercury (mm Hg) with each kilogram (about 2.2 pounds) of weight you lose.

Exercise regularly- Regular physical activity — such as 150 minutes a week, or about 30 minutes most days of the week — can lower your blood pressure by about 5 to 8 mm Hg if you have high blood pressure. It's important to be consistent because if you stop exercising, your blood pressure can rise again.

Some examples of aerobic exercise you may try to lower blood pressure include walking, jogging, cycling, swimming or dancing. You can also try high-intensity interval training or Strength training.  Aim to include strength training exercises at least two days a week.

Eating a diet- that is rich in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products and avoiding saturated fat can lower your blood pressure.

It isn't easy to change your eating habits, but with these tips, you can adopt a healthy diet:

  • Eat less salt, even though it's an important electrolyte that is found in the blood and virtually all cells in your body. Too much is bad as your body retains too much water. Avoid processed meats, food, canned soups, and frozen dinners.
  • According to the FDA Americans eat on average about 3,400 mg of sodium per day. However, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg per day—that's equal to about 1 teaspoon of salt!
  • Potassium, magnesium, and fiber, may help control blood pressure. Fruits and vegetables are high in potassium, magnesium, and fiber, and they’re low in sodium. Stick to whole fruits and veggies. Also, nuts, seeds, legumes, lean meats, and poultry are good sources of magnesium.
  • Be a smart shopper. Read food labels when you shop and stick to your healthy-eating plan when you're dining out too.
  • Chronic stress may contribute to high blood pressure. Occasional stress also can contribute to high blood pressure if you react to stress by eating unhealthy food, drinking alcohol or smoking.
  • Take some time to think about what stresses you out, such as work, family, finances or illness. Once you find your stressors consider how you can eliminate or reduce stress.

You can't eliminate all of your stressors, try to at least cope with them in a healthier way. Try to:

  • Change your expectations. For example, plan your day and focus on your priorities. Avoid trying to do too much and learn to say no. Learn that sometimes things are out of your control but what you are in control of is how you react to events.
  • Make time to relax and do activities you enjoy. Take time each day to sit quietly and breathe deeply. Make time for enjoyable activities or hobbies in your schedule.
  • Practice gratitude. Expressing gratitude to others can help reduce your stress. Cultivating gratitude is one way to a greater sense of emotional well-being, higher overall life satisfaction, and a greater sense of happiness in life.

Cut back on caffeine- The role caffeine plays in blood pressure is still debated. A meta-analysis on 16 studies and over 1,000 patients showed that caffeine raised blood pressure an average of 4 mm Hg in people for up to three hours after consumption. The median dose of caffeine intake was 410 mg/day, which is about 4 cups of coffee. But people who drink coffee regularly may experience little or no effect on their blood pressure. I think the risk for hypertension with caffeine is if it makes you nervous and anxious, then consider reducing caffeine or cutting it off completely.

Alcohol can be both good and bad for your health- By drinking alcohol only in moderation — generally one drink a day for women, or two a day for men — you can respectively lower your blood pressure by about 4 mm Hg. One drink equals 12 ounces of beer, five ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor. Once you go over the moderate amount you risk raising your blood pressure several points.

Cut back on sugar- There’s an established link between sugar and metabolic syndrome, which includes insulin resistance, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high triglycerides (blood fats), and excess weight, especially in the form of belly fat.

Sugar causes insulin resistance which activates the sympathetic nervous system, leading to an increase in heart rate and blood pressure.

Blood pressure is known as the silent killer. I’m sure each of you knows someone with high blood pressure or that has died due to hypertension. 1 in 3 adults in Americans has high blood pressure. High blood pressure is directly responsible for about 1000 death each day. Education and prevention is the key to your optimal health. Don’t be a statistic and go see your doctor, get your wellness check done.

Understand your lifestyle factors that affect your blood pressure and take direct action to make a change in your life.


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