Blood Pressure

Blood pressure has gotten a bad rap. Some pressure is essential for circulation. Without it, blood couldn't move from the heart to the brain and the toes and back again. The heart provides the driving force — each contraction of the left ventricle, the heart's main pumping chamber, creates a wave of pressure that passes through all the arteries in the body. Relaxed and flexible arteries offer a healthy amount of resistance to each pulse of blood.

But too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Arteries that are tensed, constricted, or rigid offer more resistance. This shows up as higher blood pressure, and it makes the heart work harder. This extra work can weaken the heart muscle over time. It can damage other organs, like the kidneys and the eyes. And the relentless pounding of blood against the walls of arteries causes them to become hard and narrow, potentially setting the stage for a heart attack or stroke.

Most people with high blood pressure (known medically as hypertension) don't know they have it. Hypertension has no symptoms or warning signs. Yet it can be so dangerous to your health and well-being that it has earned the nickname "the silent killer." When high blood pressure is accompanied by high cholesterol and blood sugar levels, the damage to the arteries, kidneys, and heart accelerates exponentially.

High blood pressure is preventable. Daily exercise, following a healthy diet, limiting your intake of alcohol and salt, reducing stress, and not smoking are keys to keeping blood pressure under control. When it creeps into the unhealthy range, lifestyle changes and medications can bring it down.

Blood Pressure Articles

Can your blood pressure be too low?

In people with heart disease, lowering systolic blood pressure (the top number) to 120 mm Hg may also lower diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) to less than 70 mm Hg, which is linked to an increased risk of heart attack, heart failure, and death. More »

Elevated blood pressure may not predict early death in those with weak grip strength

Elevated blood pressure is not a useful sign of a high risk of early death among older adults if they have weak grip strength, says a new study. The findings suggest that when an older person still functions at a high level physically, high blood pressure can help indicate mortality risk. However, when the person is not physically robust, high blood pressure may not always be a viable marker. More »

Fainting: Frightening, but seldom serious

Fainting occurs when something interrupts blood flow to the brain, causing a sudden, temporary loss of consciousness. Although usually harmless, fainting can cause injuries and sometimes signals a problem with the heart or circulatory system. Some faints result from a strong emotion (from getting bad news, for example) or excessive straining or coughing. Older people may faint because of low blood pressure when standing up, known as orthostatic hypotension. Other possible causes include a heart rate that’s either too fast or too slow, which may result from electrical abnormalities in the heart, thyroid problems, or certain medications. (Locked) More »

Do premature heart attacks run in your family?

About 12% of people ages 20 and older have a parent or sibling who had a heart attack or angina (chest pain caused by narrowed coronary arteries) before the age of 50. Over all, these people are roughly twice as likely to have a heart attack than people without that family history. They should be extra vigilant about monitoring and managing their blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels. Lifestyle habits such as eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise, avoiding tobacco, and maintaining a healthy weight may be sufficient, but some people need to take medications. (Locked) More »

Blood pressure drugs and ED: What you need to know

One reason erectile dysfunction (ED) becomes more common with age is that older men are more likely to be on medication, and ED is often a side effect of many common drugs. In fact, it's been estimated that 25% of all ED is caused by medication. Several drugs can produce erectile difficulties, but blood pressure drugs are near the top. ED is an occasional side effect of BP drugs like thiazide diuretics, loop diuretics, and beta-blockers, all of which can decrease blood flow to the penis and make it difficult to get an erection. However, other BP drugs, such as alpha-blockers, ACE inhibitors, and angioten-sin-receptor blockers, rarely cause ED. More »

Is your salad dressing hurting your healthy diet?

Store-bought salad dressings often have extra calories, sodium, added sugar, saturated fat, and preservatives. One should look for dressing that has no more than 120 calories, 200 milligrams (mg) of sodium, 2 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of saturated fat per serving. If a favorite dressing exceeds those limits, dietitians recommend using only half a serving and mixing it with vinegar. It’s best to make a salad dressing at home with healthy ingredients such as olive oil, vinegar, garlic, mustard, spices, and citrus juice. (Locked) More »

The value of prevention

People who exercise, eat right, and follow other heart-healthy habits have much lower medical costs than people who don’t adhere to key heart disease prevention strategies, known as Life’s Simple 7. Created by the American Heart Association, the list also includes stopping smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and controlling blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels. The savings arise mainly from avoiding hospital charges for heart surgeries and other procedures. More »

Your blood pressure goal: A personalized balancing act

Blood pressure experts are divided about when to start drug therapy for high blood pressure and how aggressive the treatment should be. A target that is lower than the current recommended guideline of 140 mm Hg for the first number (systolic blood pressure) may further lower the risk of heart attack and stroke but cause more side effects. A target above 140 mm Hg may make sense for people ages 60 and older who are otherwise healthy. A personalized treatment approach that considers a person’s age, risk factors, and other health conditions is the best strategy. (Locked) More »