What affects blood pressure? You may already know that regular exercise and eating right can help keep blood pressure low. You probably realize that smokers are likely to have high blood pressure. But you may not know about some other factors that can affect blood pressure. Here are four items that might surprise you.
How tall are you?
Tall people can have higher blood pressure than shorter people. If you think about it, the blood of taller people will naturally have more distance to cover, so it makes sense that their blood pressure may be a bit higher.
The difference is not great enough to change the definitions of high and low blood pressure. Low blood pressure is still defined as numbers lower than 90/60, no matter how tall you are. High blood pressure begins at 140/90.
How much do you weigh?
Being overweight increases your chances of high blood pressure significantly. The American Heart Association estimates that obesity accounts for as much as 75% of the risk of high blood pressure.
The good news is that losing as little as 10% of body weight can bring down blood pressure. Regular exercise and cutting back on processed foods can bring enough weight loss to reduce high blood pressure to the normal range.
What’s your ethnic heritage?
Black Americans are more likely to have high blood pressure than Asian Americans, Hispanic Americans, or non-Hispanic white Americans. Native Americans and Asian Americans are more likely to have high blood pressure than white Americans.
Unlike weight but like height, this factor is not one we can control. It makes sense for people of all ethnic backgrounds to focus on diet and exercise because these are aspects of our lives that we can change.
Do you eat (or drink) sugar?
One 24-oz soft drink can raise your blood pressure out of the normal range. It may be a temporary bump, but it’s a hint of what consuming too much sugar can do.
High sugar use is associated with higher blood pressure, especially in women. This is a relatively recent discovery, and some researchers suggest that the sugar-blood pressure connection has been missed because so many highly processed foods contain a lot of sugar and salt. When researchers focused on salt consumption, they might have associated diets high in processed foods with salt and overlooked the sugar content.
Reduce sugar by checking labels on processed goods and choosing those with less sugar.
Know Your Blood Pressure
A blood pressure check is a standard part of an annual wellness exam and something that, if identified early, can be monitored and improved. If you have high blood pressure, talk to your primary care doctor about lifestyle changes that could reduce your blood pressure.