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Being Aware of Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Levels Can Save Your Life

We often have our blood pressure checked during a doctor’s visit, hearing various numbers revealed. But what exactly do these numbers mean when it comes to our heart health?

Being aware of our blood pressure, as well as cholesterol levels, can help to prevent the onset of serious conditions as we age.

What is a Healthy Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure measures the force pushing outwards on your arterial walls. When this force is too strong—or not strong enough—various problems can result.

Blood pressure readings reflect two numbers, the top (and higher) number being the systolic number—which measures the pressures in the arteries when your heart beats—with the bottom (and lower) number being the diastolic number—which measures the pressure between heartbeats. A healthy blood pressure has a systolic number under 120 and a diastolic number less than 80.

Dangers of High and Low Blood Pressure—and High Cholesterol

When there is too much force—high blood pressure—the tissue making up the walls of the arteries becomes stretched and damaged, causing the heart to have to pump harder.

This increased pressure leads to heart attack, heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, and other serious health risks. In fact, heart disease and heart failure are the most common causes of death among those with high blood pressure.

Hypertension, another term for high blood pressure, presents a greater threat as you age. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than half of those over 55 will develop hypertension.

According to Dr. Kevin Shinal, M.D., Fellow of the American College of Cardiology at Paoli Hospital, “High blood pressure and high cholesterol remain two of the most common, yet most treatable risk factors for cardiovascular disease.”

Low blood pressure, though, can also be problematic, yet consistent readings are not a cause for concern unless you are experiencing dizziness or lightheadedness, fainting, blurred vision, nausea, or rapid and shallow breathing—all common symptoms—fairly regularly.

Occasional lightheadedness—resulting from dehydration, for example—presents no cause for concern. Yet, in some rare cases, consistent low blood pressure can be a sign of a more serious condition, so you should consult your physician if experiencing anything unusual.

Like blood pressure, cholesterol levels also signal potential heart problems. If high blood pressure, smoking, or diabetes accompanies high cholesterol, you will be at greater risk.

Unfortunately, being unaware of this critical information can be dangerous, as high blood pressure and cholesterol levels often show no clear symptoms.

“Though often neglected by patients because they are painless and easily forgotten, these risk factors, when well managed through a thoughtful patient/physician interaction, can be easily controlled in most circumstances,” Dr. Shinal explains.

Maintaining a Healthy Blood Pressure

Although high blood pressure becomes more of a threat as you age, it can be lowered by:

  • Regular exercise
  • Weight loss
  • Healthy eating
  • Reducing salt intake
  • Limiting drinking
  • Avoiding smoking

Adds Dr. Shinal: “The result of regularly communicating with your physician, combined with healthy lifestyle factors, is a dramatic risk reduction in devastating outcomes like heart attack and stroke, life changing events that are certainly best avoided.”

Lankenau Heart Institute is the region’s most comprehensive healthcare resource, with a team of more than seventy-five cardiologists and cardiovascular surgeons who offer advanced services and expertise across a full continuum of cardiovascular care. Forming the core of the Lankenau Heart Institute, part of Main Line Health System, are four of the area’s most respected acute care hospitals—Lankenau Medical Center, Bryn Mawr Hospital, Paoli Hospital and Riddle Hospital.

Find a doctor or schedule an appointment today at www.mainlinehealth.org/heart, or call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654).