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

Healthy gut, healthy heart?

The gut microbiome refers to the genes that govern the trillions of microbes in the human intestinal tract. These bacteria and other microbes make an array of substances that influence the body’s vascular, nervous, endocrine, and immune systems. These substances play a role in regulating blood pressure and blood sugar and the formation of artery-clogging plaque (atherosclerosis). Dietary habits that are helpful for preventing heart disease—such as avoiding red meat, keeping salt intake low, and eating lots of fiber-rich vegetables and whole grains—also have favorable effects on the gut microbiome. (Locked) More »

Reading the new blood pressure guidelines

New guidelines now define high blood pressure for all adults as 130/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or higher. Lowering the threshold for treatment was found to give greater protection against heart attacks and strokes. This means 70% to 79% of men ages 55 and older are now classified as having high blood pressure. The recommendations can help men be more mindful about their blood pressure and more active about keeping it low. More »

6 simple tips to reduce your blood pressure

Many women suddenly found themselves with a diagnosis of high blood pressure when the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association lowered the threshold for high blood pressure to 130/80 from 140/90. Small strategies, such as watching sodium intake and losing even a small amount of weight can help reduce blood pressure. More »

To eat less salt, enjoy the spice of life

People who like spicy foods appear to eat less salt and have lower blood pressure than people who prefer less-spicy foods. Adding even small amounts of spice to food may help people eat less salt, which may benefit their health. More »