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

How serious is bundle branch block?

A bundle branch block refers to a small glitch in the heart’s electrical conduction system, which can occur on the right or left side of the heart. Possible symptoms include shortness of breath, lagging energy, and fainting. (Locked) More »

Updated advice for people with both diabetes and heart disease

Among people who have heart disease, those who also have diabetes may need more aggressive treatment than people who don’t have diabetes. This may include newer drugs that lower blood sugar levels and help people live longer. High blood sugar—the hallmark of diabetes—can injure the inner walls of arteries throughout the body, leaving them more prone to a buildup of fatty, artery-clogging plaque. Elevated blood sugar also stiffens the arteries so they don’t expand as well, and it makes blood platelets stickier and more likely to form blood clots. (Locked) More »

Are video calls a loneliness cure?

Doctors say connecting with loved ones and friends via video calls may help people feel less lonely and isolated. Video calls are made using applications ("apps") on a smartphone, laptop, or tablet. These apps enable users to reach people anywhere in the world. As of the spring of 2020, apps commonly used to make video calls included FaceTime, Google Duo, Snapchat, Zoom, Skype, and WhatsApp. Video calls can also be used to engage in book clubs, support groups, or exercise instruction. (Locked) More »

COVID-19: Still a concern for the heart

COVID-19 is particularly dangerous for people with heart disease and related conditions such as high blood pressure. Older people have higher rates of heart problems, so they may be more vulnerable to complications, and any viral infection puts extra stress on the heart. (Locked) More »

What’s the healthiest way to brew coffee?

A study published online April 22, 2020, by the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology found that drinking filtered coffee was better for health than drinking unfiltered coffee, particularly for older people. More »

5 ways to prevent a heart attack

The average age of a first heart attack among men is 65. However, many people don’t take steps to protect themselves. Reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease is the best way to guard against heart attacks and includes avoiding tobacco, managing cholesterol and blood pressure levels, getting proper sleep, and lowering stress. (Locked) More »

What does an enlarged atrium mean?

An enlarged left atrium can be caused by elevated pressure or a higher-than-normal blood volume in the left atrium. Possible underlying causes include high blood pressure or a problem with the mitral valve. (Locked) More »

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 »