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

Beta blocker blues?

Beta blockers such as metoprolol used to be given as first-line drugs for people with high blood pressure. But other blood pressure drugs, such as calcium-channel blockers, may have fewer side effects. (Locked) More »

Midlife heart health shows a link with future risk of dementia

People who have high blood pressure and diabetes and who smoke during middle age have a higher risk of heart attack and stroke. These vascular (blood vessel) risk factors may leave them more prone to dementia 25 years later. Having diabetes in middle age may be almost as risky as having the gene variant known as APOE4, which is associated with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia. Even slightly elevated blood pressure during midlife may be associated with dementia in later life. (Locked) More »

Overcoming resistant hypertension

Resistant hypertension is when blood pressure remains at or above 140/90 mm Hg despite taking the highest dosage of at least three different blood pressure medications, including a diuretic. An estimated 10% to 20% of people currently treated for hypertension will become resistant. Addressing issues like sleep apnea, excess alcohol intake, and use of over-the-counter pain medications can often help correct resistant hypertension. (Locked) More »

Controlling blood pressure with fewer side effects

Taking smaller doses of several different blood pressure drugs may be just as effective as a full dose of a single drug, with fewer side effects. Many people stop taking blood pressure drugs because of unwanted side effects, which might include weakness, fatigue, or a dry cough. This is one reason only about half of people with high blood pressure have the condition under control. More »