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What your blood pressure can tell you about your health


What your blood pressure can tell you about your health

A quick stop at the blood pressure machine at your local market or drug store is a good way to measure your health status.

A higher- or lower-than-normal result could indicate an issue that warrants a trip to your provider.

“Your blood pressure can tell you a lot about your health,” says Dr. Sean Nguyen, a physician at Tidelands Health Family Medicine at The Market Common in Myrtle Beach. “Measuring your blood pressure is something you should do regularly because it’s the trend that indicates there might be a problem.”

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Blood pressure is the pressure of blood pushing against the arterial walls. The arteries carry blood from the heart to other vital organs and parts of the body. A normal blood pressure reading varies from person to person, but for most adults 120/80 mmHg is the typical reading. Blood pressure and levels that are consistently and considerably higher or lower than that may signal an underlying health issue.

Abnormal blood pressure levels might also be a sign that you’re stressed, aren’t getting enough sleep, dehydrated, overeating or eating poorly, Dr. Nguyen says.

If your blood pressure is high and accompanied by dizziness, lightheadedness or headaches, it’s time to talk to your provider, according to Dr. Nguyen. Your provider will ask about your family history, your personal history and what medications or supplements you may be taking that could affect blood pressure levels.

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“Abnormal blood pressure left untreated over a period of time can lead to a multitude of health problems,” Dr. Nguyen says. “That’s why it’s very important to let your provider know when you notice it.”

High blood pressure, also called hypertension, usually has no warning signs or symptoms, but routine checks of your blood pressure can help detect increasing levels.

Hypertension can be caused by unhealthy lifestyle choices such as eating poorly, inactivity, diabetes or being overweight. And untreated high blood pressure can increase the risk of heart disease, heart attack and stroke.

To help prevent high blood pressure:

  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week.
  • Don’t smoke.
  • Eat a healthy diet that limits salt intake and alcohol.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Manage stress.
  • Get good sleep.

If you’re diagnosed with elevated or high blood pressure, you’ll likely require medication to get it under control and maintain it.

On the other hand, people with low blood pressure are also at risk. Low blood pressure may be a sign the body’s organs aren’t getting enough blood flow. Conditions linked to low levels include anemia, dehydration, nutrient deficiencies, heart issues and hormonal disorders.

A systolic (top number) reading of less than 80 mmHg and a diastolic (bottom number) reading of less than 40 mmHg is considered abnormally low.

“To help prevent blood pressure issues later in life, try to focus on what you can control – a robust diet and regular exercise – so you can maintain good health as you age,” Dr. Nguyen says. “It’s always a good idea to check your blood pressure regularly and talk to your provider if you begin to see abnormal readings consistently.”

Dr. Sean Nguyen is a family medicine physician practicing at Tidelands Health Family Medicine at The Market Common in Myrtle Beach.  A native of Myrtle Beach, Dr. Nguyen speaks English and Vietnamese.

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