Your body holds about a gallon to a gallon and a half of blood, depending on your size. Along with carrying life-sustaining oxygen and glucose, blood delivers antibodies to fight infection and flushes toxins to your internal filters (liver and kidneys), which clear the gunk and keep the circuit flowing.

Like your home’s plumbing system, if a “pipe” clogs or corrodes and bursts, it can create a destructive mess, even leading to an all-systems failure if not addressed. Constant, high-pressure flow weakens arteries, and can knock corrosive plaque loose, creating a dangerous barrier. The best way to prevent a blow out? Take care of your house.

Blood Pressure Basics

  • Blood pressure is measured in millimeters (mm) of mercury (Hg).
  • 120 mmHg (systolic) over 80 mmHg (diastolic) or less is normal.
  • Systolic (the top number) indicates the pressure of the blood pushing against the artery walls when the heart contracts to pump the blood out.
  • Diastolic (the bottom number) is how much pressure blood exerts against artery walls between contractions, when the heart muscle rests as it is refilled with blood.
  • With chronic high blood pressure, the blood constantly exerts too much pressure on the artery walls, causing damage and threatening oxygen-providing blood flow throughout the body.

High blood pressure affects nearly half of U.S. adults (48.1%, 119.9 million, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and is a primary cause of the nation’s top killer: cardiovascular disease. In addition to stroke and heart attacks, hypertension can cause vision problems and sexual dysfunction, among other things. Risk rises the longer the disorder goes unchecked.

“It’s a big problem,” said Steven Simon, MD, an assistant professor in the Division of Cardiology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, who focuses on blood pressure and prevention. The numbers of at-risk and affected patients have risen with the nation’s weight and processed diets, doubling among 30- to 79-year-olds from 1990 to 2019 (National Institutes of Health). Simon teaches his patients life-changing habits that can prevent or lower high blood pressure.

“For many people, lifestyle interventions can certainly make a difference,” said Simon, also co-director of the Cardiometabolic & Advanced Lipid Clinic with David Saxon, MD, at the CU Anschutz Medical Campus. But it’s important to note that for some people, hypertension stems from genetic or other secondary causes that may not respond to lifestyle interventions alone, and they will need medical evaluation, Simon said.

Here are Simon’s top 10 tips for keeping blood pressure in check:

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