Blood Pressure and the Autonomic Nervous System

We measure blood pressure in nearly every encounter with a medical facility, and many of us monitor our blood pressure at home.

High blood pressure, or Hypertension, can lead to long term damage of the heart, blood vessels, the brain, the kidneys which can lead to serious illness or even premature death.

Most people don’t realize that blood pressure fluctuates naturally throughout the day. There are times in which the blood pressure should be higher than your baseline, and other times it will be low.

What does this mean?

The blood pressure measurement is a great way to indirectly measure the activity of your Autonomic Nervous System.

Listen to the Podcast on Blood Pressure

The Autonomic Nervous System controls the blood pressure. The two major components of the Autonomic Nervous System are the Parasympathetic and Sympathetic Nervous System.

Learn about the Autonomic Nervous System in this blog post.

The Sympathetic Nervous System operates during times of stress. The function of the Sympathetic Nervous System is to increase the heart rate, increase circulation to the extremities, and prepare the body to go into survival mode.

During and after exercise, or after physical exertion, the blood pressure should go up. The problem becomes if the blood pressure fails to go down during times of rest and recovery.

What’s raising your blood pressure?

Healthy blood pressures are usually around 120 (systolic) over 70 (diastolic). Many people have a blood pressure that is lower than this.

When the blood pressure is higher than 120/70 persistently, this may be a diagnosis of high blood pressure, and is also an indication that they Sympathetic Nervous System is overactive.

An overactive Sympathetic Nervous system is a sign of too much stress. Beyond high blood pressure, an overactive Sympathetic Nervous System leads to elevated stress hormones, reduced effectiveness of the immune system, and increased risk of cancer.

Mindful Approach To Managing Blood Pressure

Ways to Manage Your Blood Pressure with Lifestyle
  • Diet:  My “quick and dirty” nutrition advise to reduce blood pressure.
  • Sleep: getting enough, improving the quality of sleep
  • Exercise:  How to keep it simple to get moving
  • Relationships: Really? yes, learn to observe how you show up in your relationships.

Putting It All Together

Your blood pressure is a quick and easy tool to understand what’s going on with your Autonomic Nervous System. I believe its a good idea to monitor this number in most of us.

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