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What does your blood pressure reading really mean?

Have you ever wondered what the top and bottom numbers of your blood pressure reading mean and what they reveal about your health?  When your doctor tells you your blood pressure reading, such as “120 over 80”, the two numbers represent your systolic and diastolic blood pressure, which essentially tells you the amount of pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats (systolic) and is at rest (diastolic).  Jointly,  your systolic and diastolic blood pressure reveal how hard your heart has to work to pump blood through blood vessels called arteries, providing all of your cells with oxygen and nutrients.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation defines high blood pressure, or hypertension, as having elevated blood pressure in your arteries due to your heart having to exert extra effort to pump blood through blood vessels.  Written as a ratio of systolic over diastolic, blood pressure is measured in milligrams of mercury (mm Hg),  for example 120/80 mm Hg.

Systolic Blood Pressure.    The top number in the ratio (120 in the above example) is systolic blood pressure and is the higher of the two numbers.  This is the pressure in your arteries when your heart muscle contracts.

Diastolic Blood Pressure.    The bottom number in the ratio (80 in the above example) is diastolic blood pressure and is the lower of the two numbers.  This is the pressure in your arteries between heartbeats, when your heart muscle relaxes.

From the table below, you can infer your blood pressure category based on your systolic and diastolic readings.  If your systolic and diastolic blood pressure fall into two different categories, your category is the higher of the two categories.  For example, an individual with a blood pressure reading of 150/105 mm Hg would have stage 2 hypertension.

Blood Pressure Categories 

salu-bloodpressuretable

Normal Blood Pressure.    If you are 20 years or older, a systolic reading below 120 and a diastolic reading below 80 is considered normal and puts you at the lowest risk for developing hypertension.  If you have a normal blood pressure reading, maintaining or adopting a healthy lifestyle could help keep your risk of developing heart disease low.  Numbers above 120/80 mm Hg put your at a higher risk of developing hypertension and indicate that you should adopt heart healthy habits.

Prehypertension.    Adults with systolic blood pressure reading between 120 and 139 or a diastolic blood pressure reading between 80 and 89 are considered to have prehypertension.  Although medication is not necessary for prehypertension, having even slightly elevated blood pressure puts you at an increased risk of developing heart disease and stroke and indicates a need for making positive lifestyle changes.

Hypertension (Stage 1).    If your blood pressure has a systolic reading between 140 and 159 mm Hg or your diastolic reading is between 90 and 99 mm Hg and it is consistently within this range, your doctor will diagnose you with stage 1 hypertension.  Since blood pressure can change dependent on day-to-day factors such as stress levels, your blood pressure should be measured on at least 3 separate occasions to confirm your diagnosis of high blood pressure.

While adopting a healthy lifestyle can help boost your heart health and reduce your risk of developing hypertension, your doctor might prescribe medication if your blood pressure doesn’t normalize within one month of developing a healthy lifestyle.

Hypertension (Stage 2).    Stage 2 hypertension is a more serious form of high blood pressure that places you at the highest risk for having heart disease or stroke.  Stage 2 hypertension occurs if your systolic reading is 160 mm Hg or your diastolic reading is 100 mm Hg or higher.  If you have stage 2 hypertension, your doctor will recommend medication to help lower your blood pressure.  While taking medication can help keep your blood pressure in check, making healthy lifestyle changes is essential for maintaining or improving your health.

No matter which blood pressure category you fit into, the good news is that adopting and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can help keep your blood pressure in check and reduce or slow the progression of heart disease.

Heart Healthy Habits.    Adopting a healthy diet, exercising consistently, limiting your sodium intake, quitting smoking, getting adequate sleep, and engaging in stress-relief activities are all elements of a healthy lifestyle.  While each on its own plays a part in improving your health, to reap the maximum health benefits it is recommended to practice all in conjunction.

How do your current lifestyle habits impact your blood pressure readings and overall health?  Find out with the Salu Pulse+ wearable— the first compact wearable to measure blood pressure (in addition to heart rate, blood oxygen levels, and activity levels) without an inflatable cuff.  Regular blood pressure monitoring with the Salu Pulse+ could reveal how your lifestyle habits are impacting your blood pressure readings.  Based on your unique lifestyle and health goals, the Salu Pulse+ provides meaningful suggestions on how to achieve a deep sense of wellbeing.

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Countdown to a Good Night’s Sleep

In this 24/7 age, it is becoming increasingly difficult to feel rested and to get the proper quality of sleep.  While you might not be able to avoid your late nights at the office, here are some activities that you do have control over which could greatly improve your quality of sleep.  Engaging in practices that promote a better night’s sleep is called “sleep hygiene” and it can make you more alert and productive during the day.  Here is a countdown of activities you should engage in and avoid before you hit the sack for your best sleep yet.

6 Hours before Bed.    Caffeine is a powerful stimulate that you should avoid for at least 6 hours before bed.  A study by the Sleep Disorders & Research Center and Wayne State College of Medicine found that caffeine consumed within 6 hours before bed significantly disrupts sleep.  The 2013 study found that caffeine consumed 6 hours before bed reduced total nighttime sleep by 1 hour.  Caffeine consumed between 6 and 3 hours before bed will additionally increase the time spent awake at night.  Once it hits late-afternoon, try switching to decaffeinated beverages and steer clear of caffeine-laden foods such as chocolate.

3 Hours before Bed.    Certain activities cause your body to produce hormones that make you feel alert.  For the optimum levels of hormones to fall asleep with ease, avoid heavy exercise, eating, and using any electronic devices that emit blue light (including your cellphone, computer, or TV) within 3 hours before going to bed.

1 Hour before Bed.    Engaging in relaxing activities such as reading, yoga, meditation, or listening to calm music will help relax your mind so you are in the mood to sleep the second your head hits the pillow.  For a natural sleep elixir, try drinking tart cherry juice or “nighttime tea” such as chamomile, mint, or lemongrass.  A 2014 study by Louisiana State University found that drinking 2 cups of cherry juice a day resulted in an average of 84 more minutes of sleep at night.

In Bed.    The number one tip sleep experts recommend is to have a consistent bedtime for yourself— and to stick to it.  Going to bed at the same time every day (plus or minus 20 minutes) will help you maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle, and you will be priming your body to be tired at the same time every day.  Other sleep hygiene tips include keeping your room well-ventilated and at a cool temperature—roughly 20 to 22  °C

If watching the clock increases your anxiety about getting to sleep, try turning the clock face away from you so that you cannot see the time.  The anxiety of watching the clock could raise your cortisol levels—a stress hormone that promotes alertness.

After Laying in Bed for 20 Minutes.    If your mind races at nighttime and you lay awake for about 20 minutes without falling asleep, try getting up and engaging in a relaxing activity such as reading in a dimly lit room until you feel tired enough to nod off.  At that point you can head back to bed and should fall asleep within minutes.

Waking Up in the Morning.    Waking up at the same time every day helps to set your internal clock—called a circadian rhythm— that will help prime you for sleep at night.  Even for nights when you stay up later— although it may be tempting to hit the snooze button in the morning— waking at your usual hour will promote sleep debt, which will make it easier for you to fall asleep the subsequent night.

Exposing yourself to natural light by opening the curtains or by walking outside can help keep your body on a healthy sleep-wake cycle and can help you to feel more alert in the morning.  Spending your lunchtime outside for a sun break during the day can also help regulate your internal clock. 

Naps.    Although it may seem counterintuitive, taking naps during the day will not lead to a greater feeling of restfulness overall.  In fact, taking a siesta might be to blame for your inability to fall asleep or stay asleep at night.  If you want to get in an afternoon or evening rest, the National Sleep Foundation recommends a 20-30 minute nap which will leave you feeling alert without being groggy, allowing you to power through the day without affecting your sleep at night.

If you are looking to optimize your sleep and improve other lifestyle habits like exercise, diet, and stress management, the Salu Pulse+ can help.  You can see how your lifestyle habits are improving your health and the Salu  Pulse+ will give you actionable insight into how to reach your health and wellness goals.  As you reach your goals and the advice is tailored to reflect changes in your lifestyle habits so you are always on the next step to a healthier and happier you.

Stressed Out? Laughter Really is the Best Medicine.

If you have been experiencing a lot of stress lately, research suggests that laughter really might be the best medicine.  Studies show that laughter can boost your immune system, quicken the healing process when ill, lower your blood pressure, and even trigger a boost of feel good chemicals —including endorphins and serotonin— that will improve your optimism and self-confidence.  But, perhaps the best documented benefit of laughter is its ability to combat stress.

Laughter helps you to feel more relaxed by firing up and then cooling down your stress response, helping you to feel calmer.  When you laugh, your facial and body muscles get a good stretch, your heart rate and blood pressure increase, and your breath quickens—improving your blood oxygen levels.  Post-laughter these physiological changes that occur when you laugh can help to lower your blood pressure and sooth tension in muscles, effectively combating the physical symptoms of stress.  The next time you are feeling stressed, try a hearty chuckle— even a fake laugh or the anticipation of laughter activates your sympathetic nervous system and acts as the natural antidote to stress.

A 2008 study published by the American Psychological Association found that even anticipating laughter was protective against stress.  The stress hormones cortisol, epinephrine, and DOPAC were reduced by 39 percent, 70 percent, and 38 percent, respectively when subjects anticipated laughter.

Laughter has been found to have a 24-hour effect on your health— a terrific reason to find something to laugh about every day.  Want to see how your different lifestyle habits impact your stress levels?  The Salu Pulse+ tracks your health habits and gives personalized advice on how you can improve your diet, sleep, stress, and exercise, based on your health goals.

Learn the best wellness practices and find your inner peace with the Salu Pulse+.

Are you getting enough sleep? Your blood oxygen level could reveal the answer.

Do you feel tired throughout the day, even after getting in the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep?  You are not alone.  According to the National Sleep Foundation, 70% of Americans report experiencing regular sleep problems and 50 to 60% of the population has a diagnosed sleep disturbance.  What’s more, people suffering from inadequate sleep are more likely to suffer from other health conditions, including hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and cancer.  The good news is that, with proper treatment, 85 to 90% of people with sleep problems are able to resolve their sleep disturbance and improve their quality of Z’s.  If you generally feel fatigued throughout the day, measuring your blood oxygen level and heart rate could help to reveal the cause of your sleep disturbance and help you get your sleep back on track.

Your blood oxygen level (known in medical circles as arterial oxygen saturation or spO2) refers to the percentage of oxygenated hemoglobin in your blood.  Each hemoglobin molecule contains four sites where oxygen can bind to and the percentage of these sites bound to an oxygen determines your oxygen saturation.  For the average healthy person, spO2 varies between 94% to 99% saturated.  Patients with a mild respiratory condition have an spO2 reading lower than this but above 90% and levels below 90% indicate a need for a need for a respiratory apparatus.  Although temporary or infrequent desaturations could be caused by moving, swallowing, or breath holding, a prolonged or reoccurring drop in spO2 during the night could signal a sleep disorder such as sleep apnea.

If a sleep disorder is not the cause of your sleepless nights, taking a closer look at your pre-sleep activities could reveal the culprit, and it might not be what you think!  While avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed are some of the more well-known points on the list, refraining from key activities such as eating, intensive exercise, or staring at a blue screen an hour before bed could greatly improve how rested you feel in the morning.  Engaging in behaviours that promote sleep is medically termed “sleep hygiene” and our next blog will address what behaviours you can engage in to make the most out of your time in bed, falling asleep the second your head hits the pillow so you feel rejuvenated upon waking.

Want to monitor your quality of sleep and achieve a deep sense of well-being?  The road to a healthier and happier you involves many small steps, made simple with the Salu Pulse+.

Is Your Relationship Toxic? Your Blood Pressure Could Reveal the Answer.

New research suggests that both stress levels and relationship quality has a direct effect on the cardiovascular system.  While strained relationships in of themselves cause a higher blood pressure, if one partner is experiencing stress it can impact the other partner’s blood pressure.

Is your relationship toxic to your health and wellbeing?  A toxic relationship can take a toll on your health over time, impacting how your genes are expressed and predisposing you to develop different conditions ranging from depression to heart palpitations and high blood pressure.  If you have been struggling with whether it’s time to break ties with your boyfriend or girlfriend, taking a look at your blood pressure might provide some insight.

A 2015 study conducted by Oxford University measured how an individual’s chronic stress and relationship quality influenced the blood pressure of his or her partner.  For both males and females, a negative relationship had a direct link to higher blood pressure readings.  Gender differences appeared, however, when looking at how chronic stress of one spouse affected their partner.  Husbands were more sensitive to their partner’s stress levels, and had higher blood pressure readings when their partner had chronic stress levels.  Interestingly, the same did not hold true for wives, whose blood pressure was less impacted by their partner’s chronic stress. So what underlies this discrepancy?  Researchers speculate that husbands’ greater reliance on partners for support (which might not be provided if their partner is under chronic stress) might be behind these findings.

So, is it time to break ties with your partner?  While your blood pressure and cardiovascular health can provide some insight, it is important to recognize the root of what’s causing your strained relationship.  If it is something external to the relationship itself, finding ways to relax and reduce work-related and other stressors might do wonders for your relationship— and your blood pressure readings.  Want some expert-backed advice on how to manage your stress levels and how to improve your wellbeing?  The Salu Pulse+ uses important health metrics—including blood pressure, oxygen saturation, heart rate, and activity levels— to give advice specifically tailored to you and your goals for stress reduction and overall health.

Experience a deep sense of wellbeing with the Salu Pulse+.

Step Up Your Game with Heart Rate Monitoring

No matter if you want to shine on your sports team or you are looking to improve your run times for a race, monitoring your heart rate can help you improve your endurance and performance, so that you can exercise longer and harder without fatigue.  No matter what your workout routine is, exercising within a certain heart rate range (Target Zone) can help you reach a new fitness level sooner.

As discussed on our last article, determining your Target Zone can be easily calculated once you determine your maximum heart rate (MHR).

Endurance Training.    For endurance based training, your Target Zone should be 70% to 80% of your MHR.  Training at this zone will not only improve your endurance, but it will improve your cardiovascular and respiratory systems.

Performance Training.    If you are a seasoned athlete, training at 80% to 90% of your MHR will help you improve your performance.  This Target Zone increases the amount oxygen you can consume during exercise, ultimately improving your endurance and helping you to better fight fatigue.

Interval Workouts.    If you are doing interval workouts or high intensity interval training (HIIT), you can use a heart rate monitor to track your recovery between sets.  Instead of waiting a predetermined number of minutes before starting to workout again, you can wait for your heart rate to drop (from 90% to 100% of your MHR) down to 80% of your MHR before beginning another set.

5K Run.    To train and race at the best pace for you, try to keep your heart rate between 95% and 97% of your MHR.

Long Run.    If you are planning to run for a long distance and want to avoid feeling too fatigued by the end of it, aim for a Target Zone between 87% to 92% of your MHR.

Half-marathon.    For a half-marathon, experts recommend a Target Zone of 85% to 88% of your MHR.

Full Marathon.    If you are planning to tackle a full marathon, experts recommend aiming for a Target Zone between 80% and 85% of your MHR.

Using a heart rate monitor can help you stay in the Target Zone during your training, so that you can experience a real breakthrough in you fitness level.  If you are looking for help in reaching your health and fitness goals, the Salu Pulse+ can help you get there by monitoring your heart rate and other key metrics to give you meaningful feedback on how you can improve your health and wellness.

Reach a new fitness level with the Salu Pulse+.

Ramp Up Your Fitness with Heart Rate Monitoring

No matter if you are just starting out on a fitness routine for summer or you are a seasoned athlete determined to go further, faster, and harder, wearing a heart rate monitor takes the guesswork out of your training.  Heart rate provides a precise gauge of your exertion, so you can reap the maximum fitness benefits.  In this article, we will show you how to calculate your maximum heart rate and how this rate can be used towards your unique fitness goals.

Calculating Maximum Heart Rate.    To determine your maximum heart rate (MHR), simply take 220 and subtract your age from it.  Your MHR is the largest number of beats per minute your heart will reach when you are exerting maximum effort during a workout.  Once you know this number, you can check your heart rate monitor to determine whether it’s time to dial back your pace or to step it up a notch.

Beginners.    Beginners should aim to stay between 65% and 75% of the MHR. To determine your Target Zone, simply multiply your MRH by 0.65 and 0.75.  Staying within these percentages is important when just starting out because it ensures you are burning enough calories without pushing yourself so hard that your body can no longer meet its demand for oxygen.  As you reach a new fitness level, you can push into a higher range.

Intermediate and Advanced.    For a higher intensity workout, you can working out within a range of 70% to 90% of your MHR, can help enhance your endurance and performance.  (Multiply your MHR by 0.7 and 0.9 for this Target Zone.)  This Target Zone increases the amount oxygen you can consume during exercise, ultimately improving your endurance and helping you to better fight fatigue.

Resting Heart Rate.    If you are looking for a clear indication that all your effort is paying off, compare your resting heart rate before you started your new workout routine and after a few weeks into your training.  Regular cardio improves your heart strength and allows it to pump more blood with each beat, increasing your heart efficiency.  The average person has a resting heart rate between 60 and 90 beats a minute.  The more you exercise, the lower this number will be and with athletic training it could drop by 10 to 20 beats per minute.

No matter your current fitness level, using a heart rate monitor will help you see fitness results sooner.  With the Salu Pulse+ you can monitor your heart rate effortlessly – no calculations needed – so that you are always achieving the next goal on your health journey.  The Salu Pulse+ also monitors your blood pressure and oxygen saturation to give a comprehensive understanding of your health.  The Salu Pulse+ then analyses your data to give meaningful suggestions on how you can make improvements in your lifestyle habits to reach your goals.

Become the healthiest version of yourself with the Salu Pulse+.

Blood Pressure on the Rise for Millennials

New research suggests that high blood pressure is on the rise for millennials.  While hypertension (blood pressure over 140/90) is most often diagnosed in middle-aged individuals, a recent study by the University of North Carolina has found that one in five adults aged 24 to 32 years old has hypertension.  What’s more, even having moderately high blood pressure can increase your risk of having a heart dysfunction later in life.

A study by the American College of Cardiology followed 2,500 adults aged 18 to 30 year olds and, over a 25 year period, tracked the participants blood pressure and heart health.   Young adults with even moderately high blood pressure had an increased risk of developing heart disease later in life and were more likely to develop symptoms of heart disease 25 years later.  One of the key culprits linked to millennials rising blood pressure is stress.

According to the Stress in America Survey, conducted by the American Psychological Associations, millennials are the most stressed generation with work, finances, and job stability being the leading causes of stress.  While stress in itself contributes to high blood pressure, stress has also been linked to unhealthy coping behaviours — such as drinking, smoking, and internet surfing — that further raise blood pressure.

Reducing your stress can make a big difference in keeping your blood pressure in check.  It is never too early for adults to start monitoring blood pressure.  With the Salu Pulse+ you can visualize how different lifestyle habits impact your blood pressure and overall health.  The Salu Pulse+ provides individualized insight on how your exercise, diet, sleep and stress affect your well-being.

The DASH Diet – Your Guide to Weight Loss and Lowering Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, otherwise called hypertension, will affect 9 out of 10 Americans in their lifetime.  The good news is that 35-65% of hypertension is preventable with the proper diet, exercise, and sleep habits.  Following the DASH diet is a natural way you can normalize your blood pressure and prevent the development of hypertension.  Although the DASH diet on its own has been proven to drastically reduce blood pressure, when combined with limited sodium consumption the diet plan was found to be as successful as medicine used to treat hypertension.  We will take a look at the DASH diet’s health benefits that go beyond lowering your blood pressure.

Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) is a nutrition plan rich in potassium, magnesium, calcium, fibre, and protein.  These key nutrients that fight off hypertension can be found in all the foods you’ve always been told to eat: fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low fat dairy, and lean meat.  Foods to avoid while on the DASH diet include calorie-rich sweets and red meat.  So what does the DASH diet look like?  Based on a 2000 calorie day, here is a breakdown of the recommended proportions of each food group:

Fruits: 4-5 servings per day.  One serving of fruit is equal to 1 medium sized fruit (such as an apple or orange), half a cup of frozen or canned fruit, a quarter cup of dried fruit, or a half cup of fruit juice.

Vegetables: 4-5 servings per day.  One serving of vegetables equates to one cup of small leafy greens, half a cup of other vegetables, or half a cup of vegetable juice.

Whole Grains: 7-8 servings per day.  One serving of grains is equal to half a cup of 100% whole-grain pasta or brown rice, half a cup of hot cereal (such as oatmeal), one cup of dry cereal, or one slice of bread.

Low-Fat Dairy: 2-3 servings per day.  You can get one serving of dairy from one cup of milk, yogurt, fresh cheese, or soy beverage.

Fats and Oils: 2-3 servings per day.  One serving is equivalent to one tablespoon of mayonnaise or salad dressing, or one teaspoon of margarine or vegetable oil.

Sweets: Under 5 servings per week.  Limit your sugar intake to less than 5 servings a week.  One serving is equal to 1 tablespoon of sugar or jam, or a half cup of sorbet or lemonade.

Salt:  1.2 g per day.  Try to limit your sodium to 1.2 to 2.4 g a day, which is about a half teaspoon to a full teaspoon of salt.  Reading food labels can help you track your sodium intake and can help you stay within the limit.

Following the DASH nutrition plan can help lower your cholesterol, take inches off your waistline, and lower your blood pressure.  Hypertensive individuals who went on the low-sodium DASH diet had a 11.5 mmHg drop in systolic blood pressure, on average.  Most importantly, maintaining a healthy diet plays a crucial role in normalizing your blood pressure.  If you need help in monitoring your estimated blood pressure from home, the Salu Pulse+ has you covered and gives wellness advice targeted to your unique health and wellness journey.

Could you inherit your parent’s high blood pressure?

One in five Canadian and one in three American adults have high blood pressure (hypertension), a condition that increases an individual’s risk of stroke, heart attack, and kidney disease.  The good news is that heart disease can be prevented with proper diet, exercise, and lifestyle habits.

In one of the largest genomic studies ever conducted, an internal research team looked into the heritability of blood pressure, and found that 29 regions of the genome influence the person’s susceptibility to developing hypertension.  While having one of the variants was linked to a minimal increase of developing hypertension, having multiple variants was linked to a much higher risk of developing hypertension.  These genetic variants are common; each variant existing in at least 5% of the population.  It is estimated that 35-65% of variance in blood pressure is due to genetics, with the remaining 35-65% due to environmental and lifestyle factors such as smoking, diet, exercise and stress.

So what does this mean for you, if your parents have high blood pressure?  A study conducted by John Hopkins University found that individuals who had two parents with early-onset hypertension, were 20 times more likely to develop hypertension by age 35.  If high blood pressure runs in your family, it could be well worth your while to start monitoring your blood pressure early in life.  The good news is that 35-65% of hypertension is preventable and can be managed with proper lifestyle habits, diet, and exercise.

Need help in monitoring your blood pressure?  The Salu Pulse+ is the first device of its kind that can measure estimated blood pressure without the need of a blood pressure cuff. What’s more, Salu Pulse+ tailors its lifestyle advice to you, helping you on your health and fitness journey.  For natural ways to normalize your blood pressure, and to keep it within a healthy range, check back for our upcoming blog on a nutrition plan that can help lower your blood pressure and improve your heart health.