Blood pressure gauge check

The squeeze on blood pressure

There’s no better time than the present to take control of your heart health. One easy way to maintain a healthy heart is through blood pressure management.

Blood pressure is measured by determining the force that your heart pumps blood through your body. The size and flexibility of your arteries also affects your blood pressure numbers.

The current standard for a healthy blood pressure is 120/80 mmHG (read as “120 over 80”). Systolic pressure (the top number) is the maximum pressure exerted when the heart contracts. Diastolic pressure (the bottom number) is the amount of pressure in the arteries when the heart is at rest.

Risk factors for high blood pressure include:

  • Age - The risk for high blood pressure increases as you age.
  • Heredity - High blood pressure runs in the family. If an immediate relative has it, you might be at greater risk.
  • Race - High blood pressure is more common among African-Americans than any other race.
  • Weight - Obesity makes the heart work harder to pump blood throughout your body.
  • Diet/exercise - Diets high in sodium, combined with lack of physical activity, leads to higher heart rates and long-term damage.
  • Alcohol/tobacco use - Heavy consumption of alcohol can spike blood pressure and damage the heart over time. The chemicals found in most cigarettes narrow arteries and spike blood pressure.
  • Chronic conditions - Diabetes, high cholesterol, even stress can elevate blood pressure levels and damage the heart over time.

Find more information on blood pressure screenings, and talk with your doctor about your heart health.