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A Guide to Blood Pressure

What is blood pressure?

As blood is pumped from the heart to every part of your body, the blood exerts pressure against the walls of the arteries that carry it. Blood pressure is comprised of two parts:

  • Systolic pressure is the amount of pressure present in the arteries when the heart contracts and the blood flows out through the body.
  • Diastolic pressure is the pressure reading when the heart is relaxed and refilling with blood in between beats.

 

These measurements make up an important marker of cardiovascular health.

How is blood pressure measured?

Blood pressure is measured with a tool called a sphygmomanometer—though you probably know it as the much easier to say “blood pressure cuff.” The cuff is typically inflated around your upper arm while the doctor or nurse listens to the blood flowing through your arteries with a stethoscope. The cuff is inflated to a pressure level that is higher than that of your blood and then allowed to deflate. The first sound of blood flowing heard through the stethoscope gives the systolic blood pressure number, and the end of this flowing sound indicates the diastolic blood pressure—giving you your two-number reading.

What is a healthy blood pressure level?

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for both stroke and heart disease. These are the categories of blood pressure levels as defined by the Heart & Stroke Foundation:

  • Low risk: less than 120/80
  • Medium risk: 121-139/80-89
  • High risk: 140+/90

What impacts your blood pressure?

Lifestyle choices, as well as genetics, influence blood pressure levels. While we can’t change our genes, we can lead a lifestyle that is conducive to a healthy and normal blood pressure level.

One crucial aspect of such a regimen is regular exercise. The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology recommends that you get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-to-vigorous activity, like power walking or cycling.

Diet, weight management, and factors like your Omega-3 index can also play a critical role in blood pressure levels. Talk to your doctor today about the blood pressure maintenance approach that’s right for you.