Understanding and Managing Blood Pressure

Blood pressure measures the force of blood against your artery walls as your heart pumps.

  • Systolic Blood Pressure: Measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats (contracts).
  • Diastolic Blood Pressure: Measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart rests between beats.

A normal blood pressure level is less than 120/80 mmHg, though it can fluctuate throughout the day based on activities. Consistently high blood pressure (hypertension) increases the risk of health problems like heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

Causes of High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure usually develops over time due to:

  • Unhealthy Lifestyle Choices: Smoking, alcohol, excessive salt intake, lack of exercise, and excess weight around the mid-section.
  • Health Conditions: Diabetes, obesity.
  • Medications: Certain contraceptives, steroids, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (e.g., ibuprofen), and some cough and cold remedies.
  • Age: Higher risk in people over 65.
  • Stress and Anxiety

Monitoring Your Blood Pressure

  • Frequency: Check twice a day (morning and evening) for several days to get an average reading.
  • Equipment: Use a home blood pressure monitor approved by the British Heart Foundation.

Lifestyle Tips to Lower Blood Pressure and Resting Heart Rate

  • Physical Activity: Aim for daily movement, like a gentle walk or a 10-minute stretch session.
  • Limit Sodium Intake: Consume less than 6g (one teaspoon) of salt per day.
  • Manage Stress: Engage in activities you enjoy to alleviate stress, such as chatting with friends or watching your favorite show.
  • Reduce Alcohol Consumption: Limit to no more than 14 units a week, spread over 3 or more days.
  • Healthy Eating: Follow guidelines from the British Heart Foundation for a heart-healthy diet.

Impact of Stress on Heart Health

Stress triggers the release of adrenaline, temporarily raising blood pressure. Over time, frequent spikes in blood pressure can cause arteries to become stiff or narrow, promoting the buildup of fatty materials and damaging blood vessels. Chronic stress can also lead to unhealthy habits like overeating, alcohol consumption, and physical inactivity, further harming heart health.

Managing Anxiety

  • Meditation: Try the Balance app for personalized meditation audios, free for the first year.
  • Beditation: Practice meditation in bed with a 10-minute video to relax before sleep or upon waking.
  • Grounding Techniques: Experiment with different methods to find what helps calm your mind.
  • Yoga for Mindfulness: Engage in a 15-minute yoga session anytime during the day.

Reducing Sedentary Time

  • Apple Watch: Use the stand ring feature to remind you to stand and move each hour.
  • Regular Breaks: Schedule breaks to make a drink, chat with a colleague, or get fresh air.
  • Standing Desk or Treadmill Pad: Consider these options to reduce sitting time.

By understanding and actively managing your blood pressure, you can significantly reduce the risk of serious health problems and improve overall well-being.

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