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Teaching Nutrition: Background information about nutrition, the nutrients, and healthy eating habits

Image of a doctor checking a persons's blood pressure.

Blood pressure is literally the pressure blood puts on the inside of your veins while it travels through. Blood pressure is measured using a sphygmometer (blood pressure cuff and bulb) and is expressed in two numbers. The systolic (top) number is usually the larger of the two numbers and represents the pressure (in mm Hg) of the blood during a heart contraction (beat). The diastolic (bottom) number is usually the smaller of the numbers and represents the pressure of the blood during the resting period between heart beats. If your systolic pressure is above 140 mmHg, or if your diastolic pressure is above 90 mmHg, then you have high blood pressure.

If the pressure of the blood gets too high, it can lead to many health problems, including heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, and kidney failure. One out of every four American adults has high blood pressure (NIH News Release). Many people have high blood pressure and do not know about it.

A variety of factors, including high sodium consumption and a lack of exercise can lead to high blood pressure in some people. Blood pressure can sometimes be controlled by changing behavior, but sometimes medications must be prescribed by a physician.

Sometimes it is easy to tell which foods have a lot of sodium – they taste salty. Other foods contain a lot of sodium, but you might not notice it at first. Processed foods such as canned soups, hot dogs, bologna, processed cheese, and bacon; condiments such as catsup, salsa, barbeque and steak sauce; and foods that contain baking soda or powder can all have a lot of sodium. Different salts can elicit four basic tastes, i.e. salty, sweet, sour, and savory.

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