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

Arterial Blood Flow Studies of the Legs (Segmental Doppler Pressures)

People who have leg pain when exercising may need an evaluation to make sure they have normal blood flow through their leg arteries. Normally blood pressure is similar whether it is measured in the legs or in the arms. If blood pressure is lower in the legs, it usually means that cholesterol buildup inside the leg arteries is interfering with circulation. By taking accurate blood pressure measurements at different locations along your legs, your doctors can determine if you have any arterial narrowing and, if so, where. In order to get accurate blood pressure measurements, your doctor uses a technique called Doppler ultrasound. Doppler ultrasound is a painless way to detect blood flowing through a small artery. It uses sound waves and a type of sonar detection system to make noise when blood flow is detected. For arterial studies of the legs (called segmental Doppler pressures), Doppler ultrasound is used in place of the stethoscope that doctors usually use when taking blood pressures. You may want to wear shorts for this exam, and your feet should be bare during the test. If you are not wearing shorts, you may have to change into a hospital gown. (Locked) More »

A check on blood pressure

A man’s blood pressure is one of the easiest and simplest measurements and can tell much about his current and possible future health. New guidelines have suggested a lower threshold for normal blood pressure in all adults. Getting blood pressure checked by one’s doctor and monitoring it on a regular basis at home can help people note any significant changes and whether they need to alter lifestyle behaviors or take medication. (Locked) More »

Take a breather

Focused, deep breathing may help people manage stress, which can lower their risk of heart disease. Two popular techniques include alternate-nostril breathing and diaphragmatic or belly breathing. Both techniques have been shown to decrease blood pressure and increase heart rate variability, a measure of the variation in time between heartbeats. A high heart rate variability, which suggests greater flexibility and resilience, is linked to a healthier, longer life. (Locked) More »

When the heart beats too slowly

Bradycardia, defined as a heart rate is below 60 beats per minute, is common in older adults, usually after age 70. Most people don’t experience symptoms, but those who do may feel dizzy, lightheaded, fatigued, breathless, or confused, and may faint. The condition may result from normal, age-related degeneration of the sinoatrial node, the heart’s natural pacemaker. Another underlying cause is a problem with the atrioventricular node, located in the center of the heart. (Locked) More »

The trouble with excess salt

There’s been some disagreement in the scientific community about how much salt in the diet is too much. But most long-term studies show that excess sodium can raise blood pressure in many people and people’s hearts are typically healthier when they eat less sodium. Ideally, people should stick to less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day. (Locked) More »

New thinking on peripheral neuropathy

Doctors are learning that neuropathy can cause many more problems than just numbness and tingling in the feet and hands. Neuropathy of the autonomic nerves to the heart or blood vessels can cause low blood pressure, perceived as chronic fatigue and faintness or dizziness. Damage to nerve fibers serving the gastrointestinal tract may cause bloating, nausea, digestion problems, constipation, or diarrhea. These are often labeled irritable bowel syndrome. Autonomic neuropathy less often affects the bladder and sexual function. (Locked) More »