One of the most common things we see here at the office is hypertension or elevated blood pressure. So what does that even mean? Well before I begin to explain this and its importance you need to know some basics about the body.

First of all, bodies are not as complicated as others would like to make you believe. For our purposes here I’m just going to go over a few concepts so we can all be on the same page.

Blood is the body fluid that delivers necessary or vital things such as oxygen, glucose(sugar) and other nutrients to all the cells or basic building blocks of the body as well as carry away the waste products of cells. Bodies flat out need blood to survive. The heart is the pump that pushes blood through our blood vessels or arteries to get these vital things to the cells of the body. I don’t think I need to tell you how important the heart is with this purpose or function. Another pretty important part of this game are the blood vessels or arteries or as I like to call them, the pipes. Just so we are totally tracking with each other, blood vessels which carry blood away from the heart to the various parts of the body are called arteries and the blood vessels which carry the blood back from the body to the heart are called veins.

So what is blood pressure?

Blood pressure simply is the pressure or amount of force, of blood pushing against the walls of the pipes. We can measure this pressure with a device commonly called a blood pressure cuff. Now there are two values when we measure this because there are two phases to the pump or heart. Let me explain.

The first measurement we get is the pressure in the pipes when the heart is squeezing or contracting to force the blood out from the heart into the pipes or arteries. I hear some folks call this “the top number”. We medical people call this the systolic pressure as this actually comes from the Greek word “sustellein” which means “to contract”.

The second number we get, affectionately referred to by patients as “the bottom number” refers to the pressure in the pipes when the heart is relaxing. We medicos call this the diastolic pressure. Can you guess where this word comes from? Exactly it’s Greek from “dia” meaning “apart” and “stellein” meaning “to place”.

Typically a normal blood pressure in a person who is resting is about 120/80. Now obviously, or maybe not so obviously, when a person exercises or is stressed these numbers will go up. This is normal. However, when a person is not exercising or under stress and the numbers are high this can indicate a problem with the body. Also, the pressure being high can cause significant damage to the heart as well as the pipes and other vital organs in the body. So that’s not good. And more importantly, it needs to be handled.

There are way too many things to list as a potential problem that can cause this rise in blood pressure but it all goes back to the basics of what we’re talking about. There could be a problem with the pump, the pipes or the blood itself. This is where your doctor comes in to help you figure out what is the cause and how we can help get things under control.

So what can you do to prevent this from even becoming a problem?

Maintain a healthy weight, eat a balanced diet, drink sufficient water, exercise regularly and also get good or sufficient sleep. Managing or taking control of your blood pressure is not difficult. Should you need help with this feel free to come in for a visit.

Richard Wallace MD

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