Blood pressure (BP): two numbers that say a lot about your health. But what do you know about your BP? Here’s a lesson on the basics! BP is a measure of the pressure created by your blood against the walls of your blood vessels as it flows through. It consists of two numbers. The systolic BP, the larger value, is the pressure created when the heart contracts and the diastolic BP, the smaller value, is the pressure when the heart muscles relax. Textbook normal BP is 120/80, however, normal values can vary depending on the individual. It is important to get regular, accurate measurements of your BP as part of a complete physical examination in order to keep track of any rising or falling trends in your own BP, which could be a sign of an unaddressed health issue. This is best done with a qualified healthcare provider. And remember, while drugstore BP measurements may be convenient, they may not always be accurate. These machines are used very frequently and may not be calibrated regularly. Also, the BP cuff is “one size fits all” which means that it may be too large or small for your arm, resulting in inaccurate BP measurements. So take these measurement with a grain of mineral-rich sea salt (jk 😉 ).
LOW BLOOD PRESSURE
Although 120/80 is considered normal BP, many people have BP that is lower. In some cases, this may just be normal for them. This is particularly common in women. However, if low BP is accompanied by symptoms such as dizziness, lightheaded sensation, fainting, blackouts and seeing stars, it may be a sign there is something else going on. There are various possible causes to explore in these circumstances, such as blood disorders, certain heart conditions, nutrient deficiencies, etc. One possible reason for abnormally low BP can be chronic physical and/or mental stress which can negatively affect the adrenal (hormone) system and subsequently affect the body’s ability to maintain normal BP. In such cases, it can be helpful to consult with a naturopathic doctor to determine if treatment is required. Treatment may include B vitamins such as Vitamin B5 and B6 and adaptogen herbs, which help the body to withstand the negative effects of stress and help maintain a healthy BP.
HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE
Hypertension (HTN) is diagnosed when your healthcare provider finds your BP measurements consistently elevated above 140/90 (or 150/90 in some circumstances, according to new guidelines). This highlights the importance of having regular BP checks to keep track of any trends that could indicate HTN. In order to properly address HTN, your naturopathic doctor first determines the cause of your condition. Common causes include genetics, poor diet, stress, obesity, smoking, kidney disease, and hormone imbalance. It is important to manage HTN because, if left uncontrolled, it can present the risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney failure and retinal damage, among others. Naturopathic medicine offers many different treatments for HTN including dietary counseling, omega-3 supplementation, various herbs that help to reduce BP, minerals such as magnesium, acupuncture, as well as others. The important thing to remember is that your course of treatment would rely heavily on various factors such as the cause of HTN, age, lifestyle factors, severity of HTN, other health conditions, current course of medications or supplement use, etc. It is crucial here to seek out professional advice before starting a course of treatment.