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

High blood pressure at the doctors office but not at home?

About one in five people has white-coat hypertension, which refers to blood pressure that is high in the doctor’s office but normal at home. Doctors don’t typically treat this condition with medication. But white-coat hypertension may increase the risk of heart attacks, stroke, and death from heart disease if left untreated. People who take blood pressure medications and still experience a blood pressure rise at the doctor’s office (what’s known as white-coat effect) do not appear to face higher risk of heart disease. Lifestyle changes that can help all people with high blood pressure include losing weight, exercising regularly, limiting salt, and quitting smoking. A practice known as the relaxation response may be especially useful for people with white-coat hypertension. More »

The best beverages for your heart

Sugary beverages such as sodas and lemonade are closely linked to a higher risk of weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. Even healthy-sounding beverages such as 100% fruit juice and vitamin water contain as much sugar as regular sodas. The liquid sugars (which contain glucose and fructose) in juice and soda are absorbed and digested quickly. Excess glucose can cause insulin levels to spike, which can raise the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Those risks also rise when people consume too much fructose, which can overload the liver. Excess fructose is converted to fat and dumped into the bloodstream. Coffee, tea, and flavored (unsweetened) water are healthier beverage choices. (Locked) More »

Salt sensitivity: Sorting out the science

Eating too much salt usually boosts blood pressure, but not in everyone. Some people are salt-sensitive while others are salt-resistant. The genetic basis of these differences involve a variety of mechanisms. Some genetic variants affect an enzyme called renin, which is secreted and stored in the kidneys. Others influence the production of aldosterone (a hormone that increases blood volume) or affect the transport of sodium and other minerals within the body. A better understanding of these variants may one day improve treatment of high blood pressure. (Locked) More »

Skip vitamins, focus on lifestyle to avoid dementia

New guidelines released May 19, 2019, by the World Health Organization recommend a healthy lifestyle—such as keeping weight under control and getting lots of exercise—in order to delay the onset of dementia or slow its progression. More »

Cardiovascular disease and heart disease: What's the difference?

Cardiovascular disease and heart disease often are used interchangeably although cardiovascular disease includes heart and blood vessel disease while heart disease is limited to conditions affecting the heart. Knowing how the two terms overlap can help people better understand why common prevention methods work so well. (Locked) More »

Blueberries may help lower blood pressure

A recent study found that consuming 200 grams of blueberries (one cup) every day can improve blood vessel function and decrease systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading). More »

Can blood pressure medications interfere with my sex drive?

Certain blood pressure medications may cause sexual side effects like erectile dysfunction and a low sex drive. If the problem persists, a man should speak with his doctor about changing medications, lowering dosages, or exploring other possible health reasons. (Locked) More »

Lessons from the blood pressure drug recall

In the summer of 2018, a number of blood pressure medications containing generic valsartan, losartan, and irbesartan were recalled after investigators discovered trace amounts of possible cancer-causing impurities in some of the products. The risk to consumers who took these drugs is very low. The FDA estimates that if 8,000 people took the highest valsartan dose, which is 320 milligrams, from recalled batches every day for four years, there would likely be one additional case of cancer over the lifetimes of those 8,000 people. People who take prescription medications should pay close attention to news alerts about drug recalls and check the FDA’s online list of recalled drugs for additional information. (Locked) More »

Why do I get weak after a bowel movement?

Bowel movements can slow heart rate and lower blood pressure, which can make a person feel weak. This often is not a serious problem, and lying down for a few minutes can make the feeling go away. More »