Michelle Rupp: JJ Mayo joins us now from JM Wellness. JJ, thanks for joining us today.

JJ Mayo: I’m glad to be here. Glad to be here Michelle. 

MR: So, we’re keeping with this theme. We’re in heart month. We’re in the month of February and one of the things that we need to be aware of that can indicate whether or not we’re having heart disease or potential heart problems is our blood pressure. So, let’s talk blood pressure 101. Very basics. What are the numbers? What do they mean? 

JM: I understand. There’s a lot of confusion because people will- and I get this question all the time- people will come to me. They’ll have gone to their doctor for their physical, but they look at the numbers like, what do all these mean? And so knowing your numbers, I think it’s going to be really important. And blood pressure is a great place to start. You know, when you look at blood pressure, what it means, it’s the pressure in your arteries. And remember those arteries are part of a bigger picture of what we call our cardiovascular system. Where you’ve got a pump which is the heart. You’ve got the pipes which are the vessels. And then you’ve got the fluid which is the blood. And so what having high blood pressure means, it means that the pressure in those arteries are greater than what they should be. And that’s important because when we have too much pressure, it effects the heart. It makes it work harder. It effects things like smaller vessels, like your kidneys. And you end up with kidney disease. Or it effects small vessels in your eyes and you start to have vision problems. And effects your brain. Pressure being too high can lead to strokes and heart attacks and all these things, these negative consequences. But you know, when you look at what high blood pressure really is, I mean, it’s just having to high pressure in your system. And you know, most of the time when we measure pressure, we do that at the doctor’s office or you can do it with a automated cuff, right? Where what they do is they put this- and people don’t really understand how to even measure it, right? What are they doing? They put this contraption on your arm, right? But what they do is they pump up this little valve and they increase the pressure in that cuff so that the pressure in the cuff is greater than the pressure in your artery, right? This brachial artery. And they use the stethoscope, right? They put a stethoscope on your arm. And so, as they release the pressure, what ends up happening is at some point the pressure in the arteries are greater than the pressure in the cuff. And so blood shoots through and that’s what you’re listening- you know, that’s what the practitioners are listening to. Their listening for those sounds, right? And so, what ends up happening is that blood that comes through is really loud and that’s the first sound that you hear. It’s called the systolic blood pressure. That’s the first number. The top number, right? People will say, you know, they give you numbers like 1 20/80 or 1 40/90. But basically, the first number is the pressure where it’s the greatest. It’s the pressure when the heart is contracting and then as you’re listening to that sound, you hear the first sound, that’s the that’s the systolic pressure. But then all of a sudden, the sounds gets softer into nothing. And then that’s the diastolic. That’s the pressure, the lowest pressure, where the heart’s relaxing and that flow then becomes where you can’t hear it. So, those are the two sounds. Systolic pressure. Diastolic. Systolic is the top number. Diastolic is the bottom number. 

MR: I have never had it explained that way. That’s fascinating. I really had no idea what all was going in with that. Because, you know, the doctor might say, oh you’re 1 10/80 or whatever. And there have been times when I’ve said, “Is that good? 

JM: Yeah, exactly. Because what that really means, Michelle, is that the heart- if the pressure in your vessels are so great that it makes the heart work harder. And so the heart has to work harder. And at some point it can actually lead to your heart getting larger and being enlarged and can lead to heart failure because your heart is having to work so darn hard, you know. And now, I don’t know if you saw the statistic, but almost 50% of Americans have high blood pressure or what they call hypertension, right? And and one of the reasons is that lowered the standards. I don’t know if you know that. But now it’s like the normal blood pressure is 1 20- systolic blood pressure, over 80- diastolic. And so it used to be, you know, hypertension was set at 1 40/90. But now it’s it’s like anything over 1 20 is considered to be hypertensive- just level one. And so it’s really new news for people. And it’s just again important to really pay attention to that. And people can buy cuffs to use at home and just get them tested. Getting their blood pressure tested regularly is important. 

MR: So, when we talk about then having high blood pressure, oftentimes that brings in, that introduces medicines to lower it. Is there a way, you know- we hear so much about diet and exercise and how that plays into everything- Is it possible to lower your blood pressure with diet and exercise? Or no, really in this instance, some type of medical or chemical pharmaceutical is really your better bet here? 

JM: You know, here’s the thing, everybody’s different. 

MR: Well then, there’s that. 

JM: Yeah, everybody’s different. Because a lot of people, it is a genetic thing, you know. And I know people and you probably know people that have been on- they’re athletes. But you know, their genetics were such that they were on blood pressure medicine at a really young age. You know, 18, 19 years old. And and I’ve tested some of my students in class and they didn’t even know they had high blood pressure. So, we were just playing in class and testing their pressure and it’s like you need to go get this checked. Sure enough, they had high blood pressure. So genetics is a factor. But again, some of the other things you mentioned. Diet and exercise are the easiest way to control blood pressure and improve it. You know, we’re talking about limiting the salt that you consume because think about that. If you’re eating excess salt in your diet, that’s going to get into your bloodstream. And what does salt do? It pulls that fluid with it. So, that increases the amount of fluid you have in your blood. Increases the amount of blood you have, and that’s going to increase the pressure. 

MR: What are some questions that we need to ask our providers? You know, we’re starting a new year, everybody’s going to eventually have wellness exams and physicals that they’ll need to do and and they will be getting their blood pressure checked. How how do you have that conversation? What do you ask when that nurse comes back and says or rattles off a number? 

JM: Yeah, you definitely want to understand your numbers and just know that blood pressure, you know, is really reactive. And a lot of people have what they call white coat syndrome. So, just by walking into the doctor’s office, their blood pressure increases. You know, stress increases blood pressure. And so, controlling your stress is gonna be a thing too that I think most people will want to get a handle on because that will definitely affect your pressure. But so, when you diagnosed high blood pressure you don’t do it usually with one measurement. You usually do it at least twice, you know, to make sure. And you don’t do in a situation that’s really high stress. So, just know that. But other than that, eating a healthful diet, making sure you’re getting more vegetables on your plate, making sure you’re limiting the amount of salt and caffeine that you consume. Because caffeine is another one that will increase your blood pressure. Or smoking, obviously will do that as well. So, there are a lot of things we can do and questions we can ask. So, if you are a smoker, you know, how do you work with your doctor to get on some plan for smoking cessation. Or if you are caffeine-aholic, like some of us are, let’s try to work to decrease that caffeine intake. But you know, blood pressure really is called the silent killer for a reason. Because you know, it’s one of those things that creeps up on you. You don’t realize it unless you check it. And so I think doing that regular checkup is important. 

MR: Anything else we need to know as it relates to blood pressure? 

JM: No, I hope this has helped people and again, knowing your numbers, not just with your pressure, but with all of your tests that you do when you go have your annual physical is important. 

MR: All right. JJ, thank you so much for joining us today. That is very important information. And probably all of us now will no longer confuse systolic from diastolic. We know the difference now. We’re listening for that for that sound. 

JM: Absolutely. Thank you. 

MR: JJ, thank you and thank you so much for joining us today. We’ll see you back here next Wednesday for more AFMC TV.