Your annual doctor’s visit never fails to include a blood pressure test. A nurse wraps a sphygmomanometer around your arm and checks that your blood pressure is normal. You’re vaguely aware of the consequences of hypertension, so you may panic a bit if your physician reports that your blood pressure is somewhat elevated. A third of Americans have high blood pressure, and here’s what you can do about it.
What Is High Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure takes into consideration the amount of blood pumped by the heart and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries. A higher blood pressure means your heart is pumping more blood through narrower arteries. Hypertension occurs when blood constantly pushes against the artery walls with elevated force.
There are two important numbers when it comes to blood pressure. The upper number is called the systolic pressure and measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart contracts (or beats). The lower number, called the diastolic pressure, represents the pressure in the arteries in between two heartbeats, when the heart relaxes and fills with blood. Both numbers are measured in mm Hg, which refers to millimeters of mercury.
Blood Pressure Numbers
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) defines a normal blood pressure as 120/80 mm Hg. If your blood pressure is between 120 to 139 over 80 to 89 mm Hg, then your physician will diagnose you with pre-hypertension. Stage 1 hypertension refers to a systolic pressure that ranges between 140 and 145 mm Hg or a diastolic pressure ranging from 90 to 99 mm Hg. Stage 2 hypertension, on the other hand, refers to a systolic pressure of 160 mm Hg or higher or a diastolic pressure of 100 mm Hg or higher.
Since hypertension is the number one risk factor for cardiovascular disease in the U.S., it’s important to take measures to get your blood pressure back under control.
If left untreated, high blood pressure can damage the arteries. This can hinder blood flow to vital organs and cause other serious health conditions, including:
- Kidney failure
- Heart attack
- Eye damage
There is no exact cause for hypertension, but there are some factors that can contribute to the disease. According to the Framingham Heart Study, obesity is strongly linked to higher blood pressure. The study concludes that approximately 78 percent of males and 65 percent of females with hypertension have the condition because of obesity. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey also links elevated blood pressure with higher body mass index numbers.
Other causes of hypertension include:
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Eating foods high in sodium
- Insulin resistance
- A lack of potassium, magnesium and calcium in your diet
- Types of medication, such as steroids, decongestants, diet pills and birth control pills
The American Heart Association recommends that anyone with elevated blood pressure should purchase a sphygmomanometer for home use. This will allow you to regularly measure your blood pressure and provide your medical team with documentation on your blood pressure levels outside of the office.
If you’ve been diagnosed with pre-hypertension or hypertension, you’ll need to book an appointment with a medical center that has experience in treating blood pressure that is higher than normal – no matter the underlying cause. Patients frequently benefit from a treatment plan that not only balances Western and Eastern medicine but also includes acupuncture. Acupuncture Balanced Health, for instance, offers comprehensive, individualized integrative medicine plans developed by traditional Chinese medicine physicians that work with our board-certified physician trained in integrative medicine and acupuncture research.
Acupuncture Balanced Health has impressive experience in treating individuals diagnosed with hypertension. All of our treatment plans are made based on a personal assessment of our patients’ health and the underlying causes of their elevated blood pressure. Treatment will usually include weight loss along with regular exercise, the cessation of smoking if applicable, limiting salt and alcohol intake, as well as learning stress-reducing techniques.
Certain medications may also be recommended as part of your treatment plan. These may include diuretics, ACE inhibitors, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, alpha blockers, nervous system inhibitors and vasodilators. Patients with hypertension are often encouraged to follow the DASH diet. Developed at the NHLBI, the DASH diet focuses on increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables, consuming low-fat/fat-free dairy products rich in calcium, decreasing your intake of fat and sodium and ingesting enough potassium and magnesium.
Finally, research shows that acupuncture can decrease blood pressure levels. In fact, a 2013 clinical study published in Acupuncture & Electro-Therapeutics Research strongly concludes that acupuncture should be included in hypertension treatment guidelines. If you have been diagnosed with pre-hypertension or high blood pressure, it’s important to address your condition before it spirals out of control. Contact us today to make an appointment and start living a better, healthier life.