The blood vessels are the structures in charge of transporting blood from the heart to all the tissues of the body. When blood is pumped by the heart, the blood pushes against the walls of blood vessels. This force with which the blood pushes can be measured and it is called blood pressure.
Your blood pressure is shown using systolic (pressure when your heart beats) and diastolic (pressure between heart beats) figures, and is measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg).
- Normal: 120 / 80 mmHg or lower
- At risk (pre-hypertension): 120–139 / 80–89 mmHg
- High risk: 140 / 90 mmHg or higher
When people have high blood pressure, otherwise known as hypertension, it means that their heart is working harder than usual to pump the blood around the body, which can produce serious consequences such as atherosclerosis (the hardening of the arteries walls), heart failure, strokes, kidney diseases, among other diseases and conditions.
Although high blood pressure can be controlled with lifestyle changes and medication, there are many conditions that can cause its elevation. The following are the most common causes of high blood pressure:
1 Overweight and obesity
Many studies have demonstrated that losing weight helps to reduce blood pressure. So being overweight and obese is related to having a higher blood pressure, but the specific mechanisms that produce hypertension in obese people are not clear.
However, most overweight or obese people eat meals with high levels of salt and fat, which can increase blood pressure directly. Also, if a person has more body tissue, their heart must work harder to pump oxygenated blood around the body.
2 Sedentary lifestyle
A lack of exercise is also considered an important risk factor for developing cardiovascular diseases. Exercise helps to control blood pressure, weight, strengthen the heart and even relieve stress levels.
The American Heart Association recommends exercising with a moderate to vigorous activity at least 40 minutes, 4 days a week.
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