With their super-sized necks, it’s no surprise that giraffes are the tallest mammals on earth. But did you know that giraffes also hold the world record for having the highest blood pressure of any living animal?

The more you know about blood pressure, the more impressive that fun fact becomes. You’ve probably seen those cop shows where a paramedic bursts into the emergency room with a patient on a stretcher shouting, “Blood pressure 90-over-60 and dropping fast!” But unless you’re a real-life medical professional, chances are you don’t know what this means.

Understand blood pressure, however, and cop shows AND giraffes suddenly become much cooler! Here’s the scoop:

What is blood pressure?

Blood pressure is a measure of how much force your heart is using to pump blood around your body. Your blood pressure can vary throughout the day, and change from day to day. It can also change according to your activity levels, posture and emotions. These changes are no big deal if your blood pressure is within a healthy range—normal blood pressure for men: 120-over-80 or thereabouts.

What do those two numbers mean? The first one is known as your systolic blood pressure. This measures the force of the blood against your artery walls when it’s at its highest. The second number is your diastolic blood pressure. It measures the blood pressure when the heart relaxes, and the force of the blood is at its lowest.

So when that cop-show paramedic yells “90-over-60!”, you know the patient is fighting for his life!

Why should I care about blood pressure?

An overly high blood pressure—a.k.a hypertension—is not very good news. When it stays above 140-over-90, it can cause strokes, heart attacks, and heart and kidney failure. It may also be related to dementia and sexual problems. The good news: these issues can be prevented if high blood pressure is controlled.

How to lower blood pressure

Talk to a doctor

A doctor needs to check your blood pressure at least once every two years. In between those appointments, many pharmacies have blood pressure machines you can use to track your own BP for free. Give them a try—although they shouldn’t replace a doctor’s visit.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle

A four-part plan can work wonders here.

Part 1: Eat a balanced diet that includes more fruits and vegetables and less sugar and salt.

Part 2: Maintain healthy body weight. If you are overweight, losing even a modest amount of weight can help reduce your blood pressure.

Part 3: Limit your alcohol intake to 1 or 2 drinks per day.

Part 4: Learn how to keep stress under control.

So what about giraffes?

The long-necked animal’s record-setting blood pressure—280-over-180—is more than DOUBLE that of humans. For a good reason: It takes a lot of force to get blood from their hearts to their brains when the two organs are separated by around two metres! That’s why giraffe hearts, at about 11 kilograms, are the largest of any land mammal.

Now you’re WAY ahead of the curve when it comes to understanding blood pressure AND giraffe anatomy! Useful and useless facts, together at last…

Do you have an awesome animal fun fact you’d like to share? Go right ahead in the comments below!

This article was originally published on February 6, 2019.

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