A Beginner’s Guide to Blood Pressure (Recipe: Chocolate Chip Gooey Butter Cake)

Did you know that 33% of adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure?

However, many of those individuals remain unaware or go untreated because there are no real signs or symptoms for high blood pressure.

Let’s start at the beginning. What is blood pressure?  Blood moves from the large arteries and veins that direct blood to and from the heart to tiny capillaries that reach the smallest and farthest parts of the body. Blood pressure rises as blood is pushed out of the heart into arteries and falls when the heart relaxes between beats.

Healthy blood vessels are strong and flexible, and can withstand the constant pressure of blood rushing throughout the body. Over time, chronic high blood pressure causes damage to blood vessels, and unhealthy blood vessels put us at risk for certain health conditions like heart attacks, heart failure, stroke, and kidney failure.

Blood pressure fluctuates from minute to minute depending on factors like posture, hydration, activity level, the presence of stress or anxiety, and sleep. These moderate, short-term changes in blood pressure are normal and healthy.

However, some factors may cause chronically high blood pressure: age, race, family history, overweight or obesity, physical inactivity, smoking, poor diet (too much sodium, too little potassium), stress, high alcohol consumption and certain chronic conditions, such as kidney disease, sleep apnea, and hypothyroidism.

When you get your blood pressure checked, there are two numbers:

– Systolic: The first number (also the higher of the two) measures the pressure in the arteries when the heart contracts, squeezing freshly oxygenated blood into the arteries. Having a high systolic measurement is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease for those over 50 years old.

– Diastolic: The second number (also the lower of the two) measures the pressure in the arteries between heartbeats while the heart rests and refills between beats.

To help remember which is which, think: Systolic=Squeezing.

So what are the blood pressure ranges?

Systolic (in mmHg) AND/OR Diastolic (in mmHg) Category
Below 120 AND Below 80 Normal blood pressure
Between 120-139 OR Between 80-89 Pre-high blood pressure (prehypertension)
Between 140-159 (or 150-159 if age 60 and above) OR Between 90-99 Stage 1 High Blood Pressure
Above 160 OR Above 100 Stage 2 High Blood Pressure
Higher than 180 OR Higher than 110 Hypertensive Crisis (emergency care needed)

One high reading does not mean you have high blood pressure.

Need some tips for better blood pressure?

  1. Make some simple diet tweaks. Try to have 1-2 fruits and/or vegetables with every meal and snack. By doing this, you’ll increase your intake of potassium, calcium and magnesium, all of which are beneficial for blood pressure.
  2. Track your salt intake. If you’re consistently over 2,300 milligrams, dig through your food diary to find the biggest sodium-offenders, and find ways to cut back on these foods.
  3. Go for power walks. Brief spurts of exercise can help lower your blood pressure, improve cardiovascular health, and help with weight loss. It’s also a great excuse to take a few breaks throughout the day.
  4. Ease up on the caffeine. A kick of caffeine in the morning is okay, but does intermittently increase your blood pressure. Sipping on caffeinated beverages throughout the day means your blood pressure will likely remain raised, too.
  5. Work (a little) less … and relax more. A study of more than 24,000 California residents showed that working more than 41 hours per week increased risk of high blood pressure by 15%. When we work more, we tend to sleep, exercise and relax less, and eat worse.
  6. Take medications consistently, as prescribed by your doctor. Even if your blood pressure is within the normal range and you feel good, continue to take your medications, and do so around the same time every day. Stopping drugs suddenly or taking them inconsistently can worsen your condition.

I hope you learned something about blood pressure!

Now, for the last of the Rocky Mountain State Park pictures!! Gorgeous, right?? I can’t wait to go back!

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1 year ago: 10 Commandments of a Trail Runner & Callie is a Disc Dog! (Recipe: Pineapple Upside-Down Cake)

Quote of the Day:

“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” -C.S. Lewis

Now, for a recipe! I have made a Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake before that is one of my absolute favorite autumn desserts, but this one just didn’t compare. I think I had high expectations.

Chocolate Chip Gooey Butter Cake

Chocolate Chip Gooey Butter Cake

Ingredients

Crust:
1 box butter-recipe cake mix
1 egg
1/2 c (1 stick) butter, melted

Filling:
1 8 oz. pkg cream cheese, softened
2 eggs
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 16 oz. box powdered sugar
1/2 c. (1 stick) butter, melted
1 c. chocolate chips

Directions

– Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9×13 in. baking pan.

– In a bowl, combine cake mix, egg, and butter with an electric mixer. Mix well. Pat into the bottom of prepared pan and set aside. Still using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth; add eggs and vanilla. Dump powdered sugar and beat very well. Reduce the speed of mixer and slowly pour in melted butter. Mix well. Stir in the chocolate chips.

– Pour filling onto cake mixture and spread evenly. Bake for 40-50 minutes (it took me closer to 50 minutes).

– You want to center to be a little gooey, so don’t bake it past that point! Remove from oven and allow to cool completely. Allow to cool for at least another hour and then cut into bars.

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