What is Blood Pressure?
Nearly everyone knows that one of the key indicators of a healthy heart is healthy blood pressure. But what is blood pressure exactly, and why is it so important?
Blood pressure measures the amount of force exerted against the walls of the arteries in response to the pumping action of the heart. The intensity of that force depends on the volume of blood being pumped and the flexibility of the arteries.
Like a balloon being filled with water, pressure rises when the arteries contain a large amount of blood. Similarly, when the arteries lose some of their natural balloon-like flexibility, they can no longer expand easily to accommodate increased blood flow — again causing an increase in pressure.
Blood pressure is measured in two numbers: the top number represents systolic blood pressure (the force when the heart contracts); the bottom number represents diastolic blood pressure (the force when the heart rests). Anything at or below 120 mmHg/80 mmHg is considered healthy.
Why Maintaining Healthy Blood Pressure Is So Important?
When blood pressure is healthy, the heart can pump blood at a relaxed pace. Once pressure in the arteries rises, the heart has to work harder to keep blood flowing. This isn’t a problem if the increased demands on the heart are occasional, such as during intense exercise. However, forcing the heart to pump hard all the time puts tremendous stress on such an important organ.
As mentioned previously, arterial inflexibility leads to increased blood pressure. Unfortunately, the opposite is also true: elevated blood pressure causes the arteries to become even stiffer. Thus a vicious self-perpetuating cycle is initiated.
Fortunately, there is a natural way to help maintain blood pressure levels within a healthy range: polyphenols.* Naturally occurring in fruits, vegetables and red wine, polyphenols are a class of phyto-nutrients that have been scientifically demonstrated to support cardiovascular health.* One of the largest natural depositories of polyphenols is grape seed extract.