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

Checking for an abdominal aortic aneurysm: Who, when, and why?

Guidelines recommend that men ages 65 to 75 who have ever smoked cigarettes be screened for an abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA). But other people at high risk might also consider this one-time test. These include older men and women with a family history of AAA and those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or atherosclerotic heart disease. The screening test is simple and painless, and it costs roughly $50, which is fully covered by Medicare for men who meet the guideline criteria, as well as for people ages 65 to 75 with a family history of AAA. (Locked) More »

How does marijuana affect the heart?

An estimated two million people in the United States with cardiovascular disease currently use or have used marijuana. Converging (yet limited) evidence suggests the drug may be harmful to the heart. Marijuana can cause the heart to beat faster and blood pressure to rise. Heart attack risk also appears to rise in the hour after smoking marijuana, and the drug has also been linked to an increased likelihood of atrial fibrillation and stroke. (Locked) More »

Looking for a mellow form of exercise? Try tai chi

Tai chi is a slow, flowing form of exercise that’s sometimes described as “meditation in motion.“ It can be a good gateway exercise for people who cannot or will not engage in more conventional types of exercise. Tai chi may help lower cholesterol levels, reduce blood pressure, and dampen inflammation, all of which are linked to better heart health. Tai chi may also be a promising addition to cardiac rehabilitation. More »

The far-reaching effects of a little bit of weight loss

Losing 5% of one’s total body weight can result in clinically significant physiologic changes. For example, losing a little weight can reduce heartburn, knee pain, blood pressure, and diabetes risk. Losing 5% of one’s body weight may also lead to better sexual function, more restorative sleep, extra energy, and more self-esteem. To reach a 5% reduction in total body weight, it helps to exercise; eat a healthy diet rich in lean proteins, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds; and get enough sleep. (Locked) More »

Longer work week, higher blood pressure

People who worked 49 or more hours each week were more likely to have high blood pressure than workers who were on the job fewer than 35 hours a week. This difference remained after taking into account other risk factors for high blood pressure. More »

Should I take blood pressure medications at night?

A large randomized study published online Oct. 22, 2019, by the European Heart Journal found that taking blood pressure medications at night rather than the morning appears to significantly lower blood pressure and lower the risk for heart attack, stroke, surgery or stents to open blocked arteries in the heart, and death from heart disease or stroke. The study also found that taking blood pressure medications at night instead of the morning seemed to have no adverse effects, such as a higher rate of getting dizzy and falling when getting up at night to go to the bathroom. (Locked) More »

What’s the best time of day to take your medication?

When it comes to the best time of day to take medication, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. It depends on the particular medication, a person’s health conditions, and other drugs being taken. For example, some pills are best taken in the morning, before breakfast, to promote better absorption. Others may need to be taken at bedtime because they may cause drowsiness. One should always ask about the best time of day to take a medication when it’s first prescribed. (Locked) More »

Don’t stress about heart health

When stress becomes more frequent or lingers—what’s known as chronic stress—it can cause excessive strain throughout the body and lead to higher inflammation, higher blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, and sleep disturbances—all factors that contribute to a higher risk for heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes. By practicing certain behaviors, people can train their brain and body not to let chronic stress control them. (Locked) More »