We tend to think of blood pressure and heart rate as more or less the same thing. But while they are both related to heart health, they are actually two very different measurements.
So what is the difference between blood pressure and heart rate? Your blood pressure is the force of blood flowing against the walls of your arteries while your heart rate (also called pulse) is the number of times your heart beats every minute.
Blood pressure is taken using a special cuff that goes around the arm. It’s usually measured in two numbers. The top number (systolic) is the pressure as the heart beats and forces blood into the arteries. The bottom number (diastolic) is the pressure as the heart relaxes between beats. A reading of 120/80 mm Hg is considered normal.
Your heart rate, on the other hand, is measured in just one number. A normal adult resting heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute. Your heart rate is never constant. It rises when you exercise or even when you’re sick.
So what is the relationship between heart rate and blood pressure?
Many people think that blood pressure rises as the heart beats faster. That’s not true, according to the American Heart Association. Healthy blood vessels dilate when the heart pumps faster, allowing blood to flow through more easily.
When you exercise, for example, your heart rate can increase significantly, while your blood pressure typically responds with only a modest increase.
Happily, you can take many steps to keep both your heart rate and your blood pressure in the healthy range.
Increasing the amount of cardio you do can improve the efficiency with which the heart pumps blood—and lower your heart rate. If you’re not in shape, try walking a mile or two on most days of the week. In general, the more fit you are, the lower your heart rate will be.
Take these steps to get or keep your blood pressure in the healthy range.
• Maintain a healthy weight. You’re probably sick of hearing this one, but a healthy body mass index really can improve your overall health—and your blood pressure.
• Eat healthy. Strive to eat lots of fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy and lean protein. Limit processed foods, sugar and saturated fat.
• Move. Make it a goal to exercise for 40 minutes or so at least three times a week.
• Limit alcohol. If you’re a man, that means no more than two drinks a day. If you’re a woman, keep it to one drink a day or less.
• Watch your sodium. While there has been some confusing research regarding salt, the American Heart Association still recommends consuming no more than 1,500 mg a day, especially if you have high blood pressure.
The first step in any plan to get or stay healthy is to know your numbers. That means making your health a priority and taking the time to get a physical. Together, you and your doctor can come up with a plan for taking care of your heart—and your overall health. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.