What is Hypertension?

What is Hypertension? It’s the formal medical name for High Blood Pressure.

In order to form a plan of how to make lifestyle adjustments to better manage high blood pressure, it’s helpful to understand some basics.

What is blood pressure? Blood pressure measures how hard the blood moving around in your body is pushing against the blood vessels. You’ve probably seen that there are 2 numbers. For example: 130/90. The top number is called the “systolic” and the bottom number is the “diastolic”. What do systolic and diastolic mean? Basically, systolic is the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart is contracting or pushing blood out to your body. Diastolic is the pressure when the heart muscle relaxes. That’s why the top number is higher than the bottom; because when the heart is pushing blood out, the pressure is higher and when it relaxes, the pressure is lower.

(Just wanted to clarify that those fun red jelly bean look-a-likes in the picture are supposed to be red blood cells. Basically, my little cartoon shows that the Systolic number is higher because that’s when the bottom part of the heart (the ventricles) are contracting/squeezing and the blood is rushing out to the body. This increases the pressure of the blood within the walls of the vessel)

Ok now that we know what blood pressure is, high blood pressure becomes easier to understand. So, the medical community has determined some recommended numbers for blood pressure and when you have high blood pressure, your systolic and/or diastolic is on average higher than it should be. When I say “on average”, I mean that high blood pressure is usually diagnosed after multiple readings or measurements; not just based on one instance. Blood pressure can be affected by many, many factors: For example: White Coat Hypertension, not taking it properly, and many other reasons that will be discussed throughout these references pages and the blog.

Here’s the thing, medical stuff has a lot of details, and I can go through everything I learned in school and at work, but my goal is to explain things in a way that can make sense to everyone and gets right to the answer you’re looking for.

Recommended next readings:

What is White Coat Syndrome?

How do I take blood pressure accurately at home?

Why should I care about high blood pressure? (coming up soon)

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