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Regulating Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is the force that the blood flowing through our blood vessels places on those vessels. High blood pressure, called hypertension, can damage the heart, blood vessels and kidneys. The quickest ways to lower your blood pressure are to stop smoking and cut back on salt.

An ideal blood pressure should hover around 130/80, but physicians typically use 140/90 as the cut off to start treating it. Dr. Amjad Sheikh, cardiologist at Weiss, said he is happy when his patients’ blood pressures are as low as 100/60.

“Generally when people are walking and talking and say they have low blood pressure, I say the lower the better,” he said.

For patients with high blood pressure, Dr. Sheikh first suggests monitoring salt consumption. “We always have known that salt intake impacts blood pressure,” he said.

Recently, however, the medical community has paid more attention to the substance. Dr. Sheikh mentioned one study that analyzed fresh meat and processed meat. According to the study, “a steak or burger does not raise the incidence of heart attacks,” Dr. Sheikh said. Rather, the salt in processed meats such deli meats, hot dogs and sausage led to higher blood pressures.

Salt makes our bodies retain water, and that rise puts more pressure on the vessels that pump blood through out bodies. As a result, physicians often treat high blood pressure with diuretics.

“If dietary practices and exercise by themselves are not enough (to lower your blood pressure) then there are a lot of medications to choose from,” Dr. Sheikh said, adding that many blood pressure medications come in affordable generic form.

Because many people with high blood pressure do not show symptoms, Sheikh advises people to monitor their levels with regular trips to their general physician. “In a way, high blood pressure is called the silent killer because you don’t know there’s a problem unless you check it.” However, Dr. Sheikh cautioned, “taking care of high blood pressure with medications may not necessarily make you feel any better—at least not initially, and maybe not for months or years. But it’s about the long haul. You’re gaining years of life.”

Exercise, yoga and meditation can also help. Exercising dilates our blood vessels and ties in to metabolism to help regulate appetite and weight control. 

Recent studies have shown that eating celery can help lower blood pressure, but Dr. Sheikh suggested that celery itself is not as important as what comprises celery. “It’s filling without too much calories,” he said. “Focus on the general idea of good eating habits: Eat fruits and vegetables, and cut processed meat and salt. Eat fresh.”

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