The Physiology Of High Blood Pressure 

, The Physiology Of High Blood Pressure , Dr. Nicolle

Blood pressure readings are notated as the systolic pressure over the diastolic pressure.  The systolic pressure number is the highest pressure reading when the heart is in a state of contraction.  The diastolic pressure number is the highest pressure reading when the heart is in a state of relaxation.  So, the typical normal blood pressure reading is 120/80 (measured in millimeters of mercury).  This is a standard normal value, but some people have slightly lower readings and some have slightly higher readings, but these are still normal blood pressure readings.

, The Physiology Of High Blood Pressure , Dr. Nicolle

The physiology of blood pressure is a little more complex.  Blood pressure is determined by a relationship of two independent things.  The first thing is the cardiac output which is the amount of blood volume that the heart pumps in a minute of time.  The second thing is the peripheral vascular resistance which is determined by the internal blood vessel diameter, the length of the blood vessel, and the viscosity of the blood.  All of these things combined together account for the levels of pressure in the blood vessels.  When you consider just how high the pressure can actually get, you understand the amount of damage that can be done to surrounding tissues.  Now, this damage doesn’t happen right away, but sustained high levels of blood pressure will do damage over time.

, The Physiology Of High Blood Pressure , Dr. Nicolle

Many things can control why blood pressure levels can be high or low such as genetic factors, endocrine factors, and other disease processes such as hyperlipidemia and diabetes.  In people who have high blood pressure, the increased force of blood flow from the heart on the artery walls may cause them to develop thicker, stronger structures. This is why so many different blood pressure medications exist as there are many different targets that can be approached to try to lower blood pressure.  Medications can act directly at the blood vessel level, at the level of the kidney, at the level of the heart, or even at the level of the central nervous system. Gaining some understanding of the physiologic aspects of blood pressure can make it understandable that blood pressure is a dynamic and complex concept.

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, The Physiology Of High Blood Pressure , Dr. Nicolle


I’m excited to talk about this topic today because not only do I truly believe that you have the power to reverse heart disease and lower high blood pressure to improve your health, but the science also agrees! You can adopt healthy lifestyle practices that improve your health and enrich your life, which can in turn improve the lives of those close to you. You have the power to break the cycle of these chronic diseases so that you can leave a legacy of health to your loved ones.


As you may already know, I use lifestyle medicine as the first line of treatment, before medications, to treat lifestyle-related chronic diseases. Lifestyle-related chronic diseases include diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and some cancers, just to name a few. Lifestyle practices, such as eating a whole-food plant-based diet and regular physical activity, can help you improve blood pressure and reverse heart disease. In certain cases, these approaches may even outperform pharmaceutical therapy. But I always tell my patients that conventional medications may be appropriate at this time to prevent catastrophic illness, but over time, you can work to make the necessary lifestyle changes to possibly reduce and/or eliminate medications. Please remember to always consult your physician for your particular needs and circumstances prior to making any decisions whatsoever.


Tools to Improve Heart Health

Blood Pressure Monitoring

It’s very important to monitor your blood pressure. I often recommend an automatic upper arm blood pressure cuff, but a wrist blood pressure monitor is also acceptable.

, The Physiology Of High Blood Pressure , Dr. Nicolle

Weight Monitoring

Since weight management is very important in blood pressure control, I recommend that you be mindful of your weight and its fluctuations, and that you monitor your weight AT LEAST on a weekly basis. I recommend a scale that includes a body composition monitor.


, The Physiology Of High Blood Pressure , Dr. NicolleRemember, healthy lifestyle behaviors–like eating a whole-foods plant-based diet that is low in sodium, being physically active, and stress management are the best ways to prevent and control high blood pressure. Please talk with your doctor about any complementary health approaches, including supplements, you use.


Let me know what you think in the comment section below.


Stay healthy,


Dr. Nicolle


PS. I am always asked what tools and resources I recommend to help you reach YOUR health goals. Here is the ever-growing, always updated list for you.

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The Physiology Of High Blood Pressure 

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