Blood pressure is a measure of how hard your blood is pushing against the walls of your arteries. In terms of your health, it can be important to have your blood pressure operating within a range that is neither too high nor too low. Both conditions can have health risks.
Blood pressure is typically measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and has two components. The first of these is what’s called ‘systolic pressure’, which is the pressure exerted when the heart contracts and pushes out blood. The second is what is known as ‘diastolic pressure’, which is the lower pressure when the heart relaxes and refills with blood. When you are looking to ensure your blood pressure is within a good range, and neither too low nor too high, understanding these forms of pressure is essential.
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a prevalent health concern that affects one in three adults. It is potentially a very serious condition, although is now readily treated for most sufferers. It’s a condition where the force of the blood pushing against the artery walls is too high. Stress, being overweight, a bad diet, smoking, an over consumption of alcohol, and insufficient exercise can all be factors in causing high blood pressure.
It’s essential to understand the risks associated with hypertension, because if high blood pressure is not addressed and modified or lowered it can lead to serious health problems. Heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure and other illnesses that are respiratory are all much more likely among people with high blood pressure.
Normal Blood Pressure Range
This is an important metric. The American Heart Association suggests that a normal blood pressure reading should be below 120/80 mmHg (millimeters of mercury). Any reading above those numbers can indicate hypertension or high blood pressure. The first of these numbers, remember, is your systolic pressure, and the second is your diastolic pressure reading.
To look in further detail, readings between 120/80 mmHg and 139/89 mmHg are considered prehypertension and need to be monitored closely. They may be getting close to high blood pressure levels, but they are not quite there. If your numbers are at a level of 140/90 mmHg or higher, however, then it’s time to take action and lower your blood pressure.
Symptoms of Low Blood Pressure
Low blood pressure is also known as hypotension. Do not confuse it with hypertension, or high blood pressure. It also has a defined reading on the scale, and typically people with a reading of around 90/60, or even less, would usually be judged as having low or very low blood pressure. Some people who have low blood pressure experience quite a wide variety of symptoms as a result of it, so you may not always immediately assume you have low blood pressure, or hypotension. Below, we look at some of the common symptoms to look out for.
This can be an early sign of low blood pressure. One way to combat this is to make sure you’re getting enough fluids and salt in your diet, which is relatively easy to ensure. You can also assist in raising your blood pressure by exercising regularly and avoiding too static or sedentary a lifestyle.
Fainting can be a very common sign of low blood pressure, and if you find yourself fainting you should very soon after get a blood pressure test, as fainting is not normal and usually indicates that something is not right with your blood pressure or diet or hydration. Fainting occurs when there is a sudden decrease in blood flow to the brain, and these momentary losses of consciousness can in some circumstances be dangerous.
To avoid fainting, ensure you are well hydrated and eat a balanced diet. Doing so will help regulate your blood pressure and stop it from dropping too low. Additionally, avoiding stressful situations can also be beneficial, as it means the body resists the fight or flight instinct. In some situations fainting almost acts as a pressure valve being released, but you absolutely do not want to have a habit of fainting, as it suggests wider health issues.
Blurred vision is another common symptom of low blood pressure. It can be very disorienting and uncomfortable and can debilitate you from carrying out your daily functions, like driving, operating machinery or using a computer, among many others. It can also lead to savage headaches and be emotionally distressing. It could also be due to a lack of adequate hydration or a side effect of the body not getting enough oxygenated blood. Blurred vision is therefore not to be ignored, as it may be another warning sign of your blood pressure potentially being too low.
Nausea is one of the most commonly experienced side effects of low blood pressure, but its causes can be various and are worth exploring. It may be due to low blood sugar, or of course it may have been impacted by a meal. Many people assume it is food related, but in fact low blood sugars are a very common reason for feeling nauseous. To assist in restoring your blood pressure to a safer level, carry a snack with you at all times, as this can help to reduce dizziness and prevent hypoglycemia from occurring. You must also ensure you remain hydrated, as dehydration is often an element in the nausea that can be connected to low blood pressure.
Fatigue can unquestionably cause low blood pressure, so it can be extremely important to get enough sleep and ensure that you are resting enough even during the day. Rest actually helps rebalance your blood pressure, so long as you then hydrate well and eat sensibly.
Taking regular naps throughout the day can also help keep your blood pressure at a good range and raise it from being too low. Finally, make sure you’re getting regular exercise. Even if it’s just a short walk, exercising can help increase your heart rate and blood pressure and limit your tiredness levels.
How to Raise Blood Pressure
Diet and Nutrition
Diet and nutrition are incredibly important when it comes to raising blood pressure.
One thing that is widely recognized by all health professionals is that you should be eating plenty of fruits and vegetables. These foods are packed full of the essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that help keep your heart and blood vessels healthy. Additionally, they are low in sodium and saturated fat, which can also be beneficial in maintaining healthy blood pressure levels. Just as important is that you avoid junk foods, fizzy drinks, drinks or sweets that are high in added sugars, and ready meals or fast food that is heavily processed.
When you exercise it increases your heart rate and this means the body is working harder to make sure blood circulates through your body. An effect of this is to raise your blood pressure.
Exercise actually creates a series of bodily processes that help raise your blood pressure. This is because your muscles need more oxygen when you exercise, which means your lungs take in more air to supply that oxygen. This increased air intake then expands your airways, which allows more blood to flow through them, leading to your blood pressure to increase. So if you suffer from low blood pressure you should really look to allow a bit more exercise into your life, as it will make a positive difference.
You might think stress is only about high blood pressure, but it can be a factor in low blood pressure too. In fact, it can be a primary contributor to low blood pressure in many people, so it’s important to try and reduce your stress levels if you want to raise your blood pressure.
The first step is about stress identification. Assess what it is in your life that could be causing stress. Work, relationships, money – all these can be factors. Perhaps you’re not taking enough rest or sleeping well enough? Or perhaps you are anxious? These are all very common reasons our bodies carry stress, so do not be ashamed to admit to them or look to change them to benefit your body. Lowering your stress levels may not be the only thing you need to do to raise your blood pressure, but it will certainly help.
Without doubt, one of the most effective ways to raise your blood pressure is to increase your fluid intake. Your blood and body need hydration, so do not skimp on glasses of water, or herbal teas, natural fruit juices and even some energy drinks. Many cases of low blood pressure involve poor hydration habits, so do look to assess this aspect of your health, as insufficient hydration can be harmful to other aspects of the body and mind too.
There is no shortage of prescription medication available to you, if other remedies do not work. They work by widening your arteries and allowing more blood to flow through more easily, which assists in ensuring good pressure and a healthy reading.
Common medications used to raise blood pressure include angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors. These are now in widespread use and are generally safe for most people. You may also be given beta blockers, diuretics, and calcium channel blockers, which are all also well known options. As always, these require discussion with your doctor to take account of your particular personal medical situation and symptoms, but most people who are prescribed these medications find they work well.
Diuretics are a type of medicine that help reduce the amount of water in your body by increasing the amount you urinate. This can help raise your blood pressure, especially if you’re retaining too much fluid. However, it’s very important to speak with your doctor before taking any diuretic medications as they may affect other medical conditions you have and they will not be suitable for everyone. They can also interact with certain foods and supplements, so, like many of the approaches you might take to raise your blood pressure, moderation is important.
Diet and Nutrition
Increase your fluid Intake
Water is the best choice for this purpose, but other options such as fruit juice, vegetable juice, and clear soups, such as a light broth, can also work and can be included as part of your 1.5-2 liters daily allowance of good fluids.
Eat More Salt
Though it is true that increasing your salt intake can boost your blood pressure in the short-term, do not get into the habit of doing so, as this is not the best long term solution to the problem. Salt is also connected to some adverse effects on your overall health, whether that is an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, to dehydration and some digestive ailments, such as constipation. To be clear, a dose of salt here or there will not be detrimental, and it will make you drink more, but you are wise to chat this approach over with a doctor or pharmacist.
Caffeine is complex in this matter. You do not want to think of three cups of coffee, for example, as part of your daily hydration quota, but caffeine can nonetheless actually help raise blood pressure due to its stimulant effects. Caffeine raises your levels of epinephrine, a hormone which is known for its ability to increase heart rate, blood pressure and which exerts influence on cardiac muscle contraction. But as with many things in the area of blood pressure, we need to be balanced and moderate and keep tabs on how various approaches affect us. So, yes, consume caffeine, but, as with salt, not too much of it.
Aerobic exercise definitely helps to increase your heart rate and strengthen your heart muscle, and this in turn leads to an increase in your blood pressure. In addition, a good dose of aerobic movement will usually reduce stress levels while also improving concentration, both of which are also factors that can help raise your blood pressure. You only need around twenty to thirty minutes a day to start seeing differences, so if you are not used to exercise do not be intimidated. Get outside or join a gym and start taking steps to better blood pressure.
Strength training is a great way to raise blood pressure, largely because it can help to provide more oxygen and nutrients to the cardiovascular system, which will, in turn, help your body to produce more red blood cells. It is also a very good way of improving the flow of blood throughout your body, which will also assist in raising your blood pressure levels back to a healthier range. If you are not used to strength training, start carefully. But in fact even mild resistance work can make a positive difference, so there is no need to do anything risky.
Meditation is a natural and effective way to reduce stress while restoring balance to the body. It is well known for lowering stress hormones and reducing inflammation in the body, and these factors can improve your heart rate. In addition, it is a good holistic aid to increasing concentration and focus, which can also help your blood pressure to rise. Combined with other advice in this article, taking control of your mind and body through meditative practices can unquestionably make a real difference to your blood pressure.
Get Adequate Sleep
Sleep is truly essential for a healthy life. Many of us underestimate its importance. A good first step is to set a consistent and reasonable bedtime. This will help you develop a regular sleep schedule, as your body responds well to a routine. Once you’ve established a bedtime, focus on keeping the same schedule every day.
Second, take steps to make your sleep environment comfortable and restful. This includes controlling the light and noise, and avoiding devices in the bedroom. Using blackout curtains, an eye mask, and ear plugs can help to promote better sleep.
Finally, reduce your caffeine consumption in the hours leading up to bedtime. Eating late at night and doing strenuous exercise shortly before going to bed should also be avoided. All of these things can help to ensure you get the restful sleep you need.
Practice Yoga or Tai Chi
Both these ancient arts have powerful positive benefits for the overall state of the body and the mind. They work by helping you to feel more in control of your muscles, your mental state, and your body’s functions. Because they lower stress levels they are both very fine ways to enhance and raise your blood pressure. Look into both of them and see which works best for your lifestyle, personal preferences and medical situation.
Effective use of herbal supplements can be a natural and straightforward way to promote healthy circulation and can be a very good alternative to more conventional treatments. Your health store will have a good selection of these, but among those to look out for are guarana, arnica and ginseng. These are well known to impact your blood pressure over time. Licorice is also reputed to have a positive effect on raising blood pressure. Do just be aware that if you are on existing medication you check the suitability of these herbs for you. They will likely be fine, but make sure to ask the pharmacist. Below, we look in more detail at herbs you may not have heard of.
Gingko biloba has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine to improve circulation and overall health. It contains flavonoids and antioxidants which work together to increase the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the brain, heart, and other parts of the body and numerous studies have found that taking ginkgo extract daily can help widen the blood vessels and reduce the resistance of blood flow, thus leading to higher blood pressure. It is also a great supplement to take to improve concentration, and reduce stress and anxiety, which will also assist in raising your blood pressure.
Used in traditional Indian medicine, this herb is one that has also been shown to be effective in raising blood pressure. It is widely used to promote heart health. As with all medications or supplements that are new to you, make sure to seek advice from your health store or pharmacist before using it, but look out for it, as it may well help your blood pressure rise if used in conjunction with other approaches.
This herb is not well known in the west, but it has been used to naturally raise blood pressure in traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine for centuries. Rhodiola rosea is an adaptogenic root extract that helps to promote the production of nitric oxide in the body. Because nitric oxide helps to relax and widen the arteries, allowing more blood to flow, it therefore helps to increase your blood pressure. Additionally, research suggests that rhodiola rosea can reduce stress, aid in mental clarity, and improve your overall mood, all of which can have a positive effect on blood pressure levels.
Blood pressure can have a large impact on our health and if it is too low or too high your wider wellbeing can be at serious risk. Do not take it lightly if you are feeling consistently unwell, as it may be that it is a blood pressure related matter. If you think about it, few things are more important than the functioning of your blood as it moves round your body, so if you have any doubts, get your pressure checked out medically. It may be the source of unlocking much better all round health for you.