Learning About Healthy Blood Pressure & Cholesterol Levels

Knowing your blood pressure and cholesterol levels is important when it comes to keeping your body healthy – especially your heart. Gaurav Sharma, MD, explains what to know about both levels.

Feb. 1, 2023 5   min read

Blood Pressure cuff

Maintaining normal blood pressure and cholesterol levels are significant ways to ensure that your heart remains healthy. People with high blood pressure and cholesterol levels are at an increased risk for heart disease, heart attack, stroke, and other serious health conditions.

We asked Gaurav Sharma, MD, a cardiologist with Rochester Regional Health, to explain what a normal blood pressure and cholesterol level is, and simple steps people can take to keep both at a healthy level.

Blood pressure levels

As blood circulates throughout your body, it is moved along by a certain amount of pressure. That pressure is measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), which was used in the first accurate pressure gauges.

Blood pressure is measured in two numbers: systolic and diastolic. Systolic pressure, the amount of pressure exerted on the arterial walls when the heart is beating, is the first number. Diastolic pressure, the amount of pressure exerted on arterial walls when the heart is resting, is the second number.

A normal blood pressure is considered to be 120/80 mmHg or less, according to the most recent guidelines issued by the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association. By those same AHA standards, high blood pressure is considered to be 130/80 or higher.

Symptoms of high blood pressure

High blood pressure (hypertension) can occur with or without symptoms. For patients who do experience symptoms, they can include:

  • headaches
  • blurred vision
  • chest pain or heaviness
  • shortness of breath
  • fluid buildup in lungs or legs (edema)
  • lightheadedness or dizziness
  • confusion

“Since hypertension can be present without any symptoms, having regular primary care visits should be a priority for everyone – especially if there is a family history,” Dr. Sharma said.

Risk factors and treatment for high blood pressure

Genetics plays a significant role in an individual’s blood pressure. With lifestyle changes, a person with high blood pressure can lower it.

Controllable factors for blood pressure include:

  • inactivity/sedentary lifestyle
  • emotional stress
  • caffeine
  • illicit drugs
  • sleep apnea
  • being overweight
  • high sodium diet

Research shows healthy lifestyle practices are highly effective at keeping a person’s blood pressure normal. These practices include routine physical exercise, maintaining a healthy body weight, and eating a healthy diet such as the DASH Diet. If patients are incorporating these practices into daily life and are not seeing significant changes, providers may recommend medications such as diuretics, ACE inhibitors, calcium channel blockers, or beta blockers to help.

There is no age at which people should stop managing their blood pressure. If a person has high blood pressure throughout their life, they should continue to manage it as long as possible. Patients should talk with their primary care provider about their blood pressure on a regular basis.

Cholesterol levels

Cholesterol is an organic molecule that helps the body to produce hormones, cell membranes, and assist with other forms of development. However, if too much cholesterol is in the bloodstream, it can start to stick to artery walls – causing narrowing or even blockages.

These blockages can lead to more severe health problems, such chest pain, cardiac arrest, stroke, heart disease, or even death.

Cholesterol is measured in milligrams per deciliter; a deciliter is one-tenth of a liter. A person’s total cholesterol level combines their HDL and LDL levels.

For people ages 20 and older, a normal cholesterol level is between 125 and 200 mg/dL. In this range, the LDL should be less than 100 for both men and women. Men should have an HDL of 40 mg/DL or higher; women should have an HDL of 50 mg/DL or higher.

Risk factors & treatment for high cholesterol

When analyzing a patient’s cholesterol level, cardiologists will consider several factors in determining whether the patient faces any increased risk. These risk factors include:

  • age
  • race/ethnicity
  • blood pressure
  • medical history, including heart attack or stroke

Providers will look at these risk factors and determine whether lifestyle changes alone may be enough to lower an individual’s cholesterol, or if medications such as statins are needed.

At the Sands-Constellation Heart Institute, a new injection called Inclisiran (LEQVIO) is available for eligible patients. Administered in the office every six months, Inclisiran lowers LDL cholesterol by 50 percent. Patients must have:

  • heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia
  • suffered a heart attack or stroke
  • the highest possible dose of statin and ezetimibe without their LDL dropping below 70 mg/dL

The most effective lifestyle changes in reducing cholesterol are quitting smoking, routine physical exercise, maintaining a good weight, and avoiding saturated fats.

“Do not underestimate the power of a healthy lifestyle,” Dr. Sharma said. “Patients may be surprised at what they are able to accomplish when they make simple but effective changes to their daily life."

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