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Under Pressure

Libi Astaire

Blood pressure is a normal part of your body’s functioning. But since you can have too much of a good thing, it’s never too early to start keeping your numbers under control.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

I blame it on my health fund. All I wanted was a flu shot. But the nurse on duty insisted on first checking my blood pressure. “It’s routine,” she assured me. Indeed, it was. After checking my blood pressure twice, she went back to her computer to check my medical records and then, in typical Israeli fashion, started to yell at me. Didn’t I know I had high blood pressure? Didn’t my doctor know? Why wasn’t I doing anything about it? Did I want to have a stroke, chas v’shalom? Or a heart attack? After we had both calmed down, I got my flu shot — and a prescription to purchase a blood pressure monitoring machine, so I could check my blood pressure levels at home. When I got home, though, my first stop was my computer. Was my blood pressure really that bad? And, if so, why didn’t I know it?   Meet Your Blood Pressure Contrary to what many think, “blood pressure” isn’t a sign of bad health. It’s a natural process of the body. Each heartbeat pumps blood through your body, bringing energy and oxygen to your body’s muscles. A heartbeat is a two-pronged activity. First, the heart squeezes and pushes the blood through your arteries; this forces your blood pressure to go up. Then the heart relaxes and your blood pressure goes down. A reading of your blood pressure is therefore comprised of two numbers. The first number, known as the systolic blood pressure level, is the highest level your blood pressure reaches when your heart is squeezing. The second one, your diastolic level, is your blood pressure’s lowest level when the heart is relaxing. A “normal” or “optimal” reading is 120/80mmHg or less.

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