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

Fall prevention program comes up short

A specialized fall prevention program managed by nurses wasn’t able to significantly reduce the risk for serious falls for high-risk adults over age 70, according to a study published July 9, 2020, in the New England Journal of Medicine. More »

Hot baths and saunas: Beneficial for your heart?

Taking baths or saunas on a regular basis may help lower the risk of heart attack and stroke. Evidence for these benefits comes from studies in Japan (where hot tub use in ingrained in the culture) and Finland, where saunas are popular. Both habits seem to be safe for people with stable heart disease and even mild heart failure. But people with unstable chest pain (angina), poorly controlled high blood pressure, or other serious heart issues should avoid them. Because high temperatures can lower blood pressure, older people with low blood pressure should be extra careful in hot baths and saunas. (Locked) More »

The best way to measure your blood pressure at home

To measure blood pressure accurately at home, one should get an approved blood pressure monitor and follow a particular set of steps. These include sitting at a table with one’s arm resting comfortably on it; keeping one’s back straight and feet flat on the floor; placing the blood pressure cuff around one’s bare upper arm; relaxing for five minutes before taking the first reading; remaining quiet while taking the blood pressure measurement; and waiting one to two minutes before taking another reading. (Locked) More »

Does alcohol help protect the brain?

An observational study published online June 29, 2020, by Jama Network Open found a potential link between low-to-moderate alcohol drinking in middle age and better cognitive skills in older age. More »

Does human growth hormone slow the aging process?

Contrary to its reputation as an anti-aging supplement, human growth hormone is not effective at turning back the clock, and it may carry health risks. Commitment to a healthy diet and regular exercise is still the best formula for healthy aging. (Locked) More »

How super are "superfoods"?

Certain fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds have been labeled "superfoods" because, compared with other foods, they have higher amounts of certain vitamins and minerals and powerful antioxidants. They often are associated with combating high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and even some cancers. But instead of focusing on eating more of individual foods, experts suggest building "superplates" that include a variety of superfoods. (Locked) More »

Lowering blood pressure may help prevent dementia

Even slightly elevated blood pressure in middle age has been linked to a 30% higher risk of dementia two decades later. High blood pressure accelerates atherosclerosis and leaves people prone to an ischemic stroke, which may contribute to vascular dementia. But high blood pressure can also cause the walls of smaller arteries to thicken, raising the risk of hemorrhagic stroke. Minor strokes in smaller vessels may go unnoticed, but the damage from many small, silent stokes may accumulate, leading to cognitive problems. Taking blood pressure drugs may help people avoid these risks. More »

Supplements for three common conditions

If someone is unable to tolerate medications for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or anxiety, supplements may be an option. Evidence shows that certain supplements may be effective for these conditions, if taken properly under the supervision of your doctor. But to ensure you are buying products that are both safe and effective, look for a quality seal on the label. More »