Your blood pressure and cholesterol levels have a lot to do with your heart health. Understanding how problems with blood pressure and cholesterol contribute to heart disease is important and can help you make better lifestyle choices.
Blood Pressure Briefly Explained
Blood pressure is described as the amount of force it takes to propel blood through your blood vessels. If a lot of force is required, you will have a condition called hypertension or high blood pressure.
Blood pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) using a blood pressure cuff that fits over your arm. Healthy blood pressure is 120 / 80 mm Hg. If you have hypertension your blood pressure reading is greater than 140 / 90 mm Hg.
Cholesterol Briefly Explained.
You often hear about cholesterol in association with heart disease. However, cholesterol is important for the body. Cholesterol is needed for the production of hormones, certain vitamins, and digestive enzymes. It is also a component in the membrane of each of the billion cells that make up your body.
Your body makes cholesterol in your liver and you also obtain cholesterol from your diet. Foods from animal sources such as meats and whole dairy products and certain plant based oils such as palm oil, coconut oil and cocoa butters contribute cholesterol to your body.
Cholesterol, which is a type of fat (lipid) travels through your body attached to a protein in the form of a lipoprotein. If you have concerns about your cholesterol level, your cholesterol profile likely shows high LDL (low density lipoproteins) and low HDL (high density lipoproteins).
Your doctor would like to see your total cholesterol level below 200 mg/dL (below 5.2 mmol/L). Your LDL cholesterol level should be below 70 mg/dL (below 1.8 mmol/L) for better heart health.
Blood Pressure and Cholesterol Link
LDL (bad) cholesterol can stick to the walls of your arteries leaving less room for blood to pass through your blood vessel. Because your arteries are narrowed due to cholesterol build up (plaque) on the walls, your body must work harder to force blood through the artery. This leads to high blood pressure.
High blood pressure and cholesterol levels that are elevated in your blood are precursors to the development of heart disease and stroke. (1)
Lowering Blood Pressure And Cholesterol
Your family history, gender, and age can contribute to high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels. You can not change these factors, but you can keep your blood pressure and cholesterol under control by making positive lifestyle changes.
You can lower blood pressure and cholesterol by walking or pursuing regular physical activity (i.e. gardening, bike riding, dancing, jogging, etc.) most days of the week for approximately 30 minutes per session.
Eating a healthy diet that is rich in high fiber foods such as whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables will help control risk factors associated with heart disease. Your diet should also be low in saturated fats, cholesterol and foods that contain trans fats such as packaged snack foods and many baked goods. You can eat a diet low in sodium (salt) to reduce your blood pressure.
You can also lower your blood pressure and cholesterol by not smoking. Smoking may raise the level of bad cholesterol in your blood and can cause irritation to the lining of your blood vessels making it easier for cholesterol to stick to the artery wall.
You can not control all the factors that contribute to high blood pressure and high cholesterol, but you can make significant progress toward a healthier body by choosing a healthy lifestyle.
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