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

The trouble with excess salt

There’s been some disagreement in the scientific community about how much salt in the diet is too much. But most long-term studies show that excess sodium can raise blood pressure in many people and people’s hearts are typically healthier when they eat less sodium. Ideally, people should stick to less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day. (Locked) More »

Can these three steps save 100 million lives?

A worldwide push to lower blood pressure, reduce sodium intake, and stop eating trans fat could delay more than 94 million deaths from cardiovascular disease in the next 25 years, finds a study published online June 10, 2019, by Circulation. More »

High blood pressure at the doctors office but not at home?

About one in five people has white-coat hypertension, which refers to blood pressure that is high in the doctor’s office but normal at home. Doctors don’t typically treat this condition with medication. But white-coat hypertension may increase the risk of heart attacks, stroke, and death from heart disease if left untreated. People who take blood pressure medications and still experience a blood pressure rise at the doctor’s office (what’s known as white-coat effect) do not appear to face higher risk of heart disease. Lifestyle changes that can help all people with high blood pressure include losing weight, exercising regularly, limiting salt, and quitting smoking. A practice known as the relaxation response may be especially useful for people with white-coat hypertension. More »

New thinking on peripheral neuropathy

Doctors are learning that neuropathy can cause many more problems than just numbness and tingling in the feet and hands. Neuropathy of the autonomic nerves to the heart or blood vessels can cause low blood pressure, perceived as chronic fatigue and faintness or dizziness. Damage to nerve fibers serving the gastrointestinal tract may cause bloating, nausea, digestion problems, constipation, or diarrhea. These are often labeled irritable bowel syndrome. Autonomic neuropathy less often affects the bladder and sexual function. (Locked) More »

The best beverages for your heart

Sugary beverages such as sodas and lemonade are closely linked to a higher risk of weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Even healthy-sounding beverages such as 100% fruit juice and vitamin water contain as much sugar as regular sodas. The liquid sugars (which contain glucose and fructose) in juice and soda are absorbed and digested quickly. Excess glucose can cause insulin levels to spike, which can raise the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Those risks also rise when people consume too much fructose, which can overload the liver. Excess fructose is converted to fat and dumped into the bloodstream. Coffee, tea, and flavored (unsweetened) water are healthier beverage choices. (Locked) More »

Salt sensitivity: Sorting out the science

Eating too much salt usually boosts blood pressure, but not in everyone. Some people are salt-sensitive while others are salt-resistant. The genetic basis of these differences involve a variety of mechanisms. Some genetic variants affect an enzyme called renin, which is secreted and stored in the kidneys. Others influence the production of aldosterone (a hormone that increases blood volume) or affect the transport of sodium and other minerals within the body. A better understanding of these variants may one day improve treatment of high blood pressure. (Locked) More »

Skip vitamins, focus on lifestyle to avoid dementia

New guidelines released May 19, 2019, by the World Health Organization recommend a healthy lifestyle—such as keeping weight under control and getting lots of exercise—in order to delay the onset of dementia or slow its progression. More »

Cardiovascular disease and heart disease: What's the difference?

Cardiovascular disease and heart disease often are used interchangeably although cardiovascular disease includes heart and blood vessel disease while heart disease is limited to conditions affecting the heart. Knowing how the two terms overlap can help people better understand why common prevention methods work so well. (Locked) More »

Blueberries may help lower blood pressure

A recent study found that consuming 200 grams of blueberries (one cup) every day can improve blood vessel function and decrease systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading). More »