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

Ask the doctor: Erratic blood pressure readings

There can be many reasons for erratic blood pressure readings. Blood pressures naturally fluctuate over the course of a day. Some people may also have higher readings in the doctor’s office, called white-coat hypertension.  (Locked) More »

Is this common blood pressure drug risky?

Taking calcium-channel blockers (CCBs) for high blood pressure may have some risks. Some research has shown that taking CCBs at the same time as the antibiotic clarithromycin (Biaxin) is associated with a small risk of kidney injury. Other research finds that women who take CCBs for 10 years or more have more than double the odds of getting breast cancer. People who are concerned should talk to their doctor to determine if the risks of CCBs outweigh the benefits. (Locked) More »

Coffee and your blood pressure

A recent study alleviates concerns about coffee's role in heart disease and stroke and makes observations about coffee's physiological effects. (Locked) More »

Borderline hypertension: When do you need treatment?

Hypertension, defined as a blood pressure reading of 140/90 mm Hg or above, is a primary risk factor for stroke and heart attack. But the perils of hypertension do not suddenly appear as blood pressure readings cross that threshold. Many people fall into the murky zone of borderline hypertension, in which blood pressure is higher than ideal but not yet at a point where medications are recommended. Making diet and lifestyle changes proven to lower blood pressure can prevent or delay the need to take high blood pressure medicines in the future.  (Locked) More »

On call: How urinary drugs affect blood pressure

Medications for urinary problems in men vary in their impact on blood pressure. They can also interact with other medications in risky ways. Men starting on an alpha blocker should be fully informed about possible side effects. (Locked) More »

Sizing up 'superfoods' for heart health

“Superfoods” are rich in heart-healthy nutrients such as soluble fiber, antioxidants, and omega-3 fatty acids that can help keep your arteries clear. They include oatmeal, oranges, beans, spinach, kale, salmon, extra-virgin olive oil, quinoa, avocados, nuts, berries, and dark chocolate. But experts say it’s best to eat a wide range of fresh, unprocessed foods, which will give you a combination of nutrients and micronutrients that occur together in food. More »