High cholesterol puts you at risk for developing cardiovascular disease. Low blood pressure can somewhat offset this risk. Low blood pressure helps keeps the walls of your arteries structurally sound, making it easier for cholesterol to flow through your bloodstream rather than get trapped in scar tissue that forms when your blood pressure elevates. Diet and lifestyle changes can help you lower your cholesterol and maintain healthy blood pressure levels.
High Cholesterol and Low Blood Pressure
High cholesterol measures 200 mg/dl – milligrams per deciliter of blood – or more. The higher your cholesterol measures about 200 mg/dl, the greater your risk of heart disease. If your cholesterol reaches 240/mg/dl, you face twice the risk for heart problems than someone whose cholesterol measures 200 mg/dl, according to the American Heart Association. A reading of 120/80 mm Hg – millimeters of mercury – is considered normal. Low pressure means that either your systolic blood pressure – the top number – measures less than 180 or your diastolic blood pressure – your lower number – is less than 80.
Some factors that put you at risk for heart attacks and strokes remain beyond your control. Men, persons older than 50 and anyone with a family history of heart disease face higher risk. But you can likely lower your cholesterol by losing excess weight and exercising more. If you smoke, quitting will help lower your low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, also known as the “bad” cholesterol because of its reputation for clogging arteries. If you drink alcohol, one or two drinks a day may elevate your high-density lipoprotein – HDL or “good” cholesterol – but drinking more could prove harmful.
You can help lower your cholesterol by changing the amount and type of fat in your diet. MayoClinic.com recommends limiting your daily cholesterol to between 200 mg and 300 mg, your daily saturated fat consumption to between 16 g and 22 g, your daily trans fat intake to 2 g and your total daily fat to between 44 and 78 g. Those at high risk for developing heart disease should follow the lower range of recommendations.
You can limit dietary cholesterol by cutting back on eggs, shrimp, organ meats and whole milk dairy. You can keep your saturated fat within the guidelines by choosing lean portions of protein and keeping portions small – about 3 ½ oz. Limit trans fat by substituting olive oil for margarine and shortening when cooking at home and avoid commercial baked goods and restaurant foods cooked in shortening. Add more healthy oils to your diet from sources such as fish, nuts and seeds. Consult your doctor about your low blood pressure if it presents symptoms such as dizziness, blurred vision, nausea, fatigue or rapid, shallow breathing.