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

Answers about aspirin

Aspirin prevents platelets from clumping together in the bloodstream and forming a clot, which can trigger a heart attack or stroke. That’s why most people with heart disease should take a daily low-dose aspirin. But aspirin can also cause gastrointestinal bleeding. For some people, that danger outweighs the drug’s heart-protecting effects. Although taking heartburn medications and other strategies can lower the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding, some people should not take daily aspirin. A conversation with a trusted doctor is the best way to determine whether to take aspirin, when, what kind, and how much.  More »

Ask the doctor: Borderline high blood pressure

People with mild high blood pressure may be able to avoid taking medication by making lifestyle changes such as cutting back on salt, losing 5 to 10 pounds, and drinking less alcohol. If medication is needed, these changes add to its benefit. (Locked) More »

For a healthy brain, treat high blood pressure

Fighting high blood pressure also fights dementia—and studies hint that antihypertensive drugs may lower a person’s risk of cognitive impairment and even Alzheimer’s disease. It’s not yet clear whether this is true, or whether some antihypertensive medications might be better than others in this regard. Even if blood pressure medications do help prevent dementia, they will not be a silver bullet. Many different factors and many different pathways lead to dementia, and most risk factors for heart disease are risk factors for dementia as well. Heart health takes a multifactorial approach—lowering cholesterol, watching your blood pressure, eating healthy foods, staying active—and so does brain health. (Locked) More »

Heart failure prevention essentials: Take these steps

The risk of heart failure, or reduced capacity of the heart to pump blood, rises with age. The risk is especially high in people after a heart attack or among those with heart disease or high blood pressure. To prevent heart failure or slow its progression, exercise, diet, moderating alcohol intake, and not smoking are all recommended. Appropriate medical care, including medications, can help preserve heart function. (Locked) More »

How to monitor-and lower-your blood pressure at home

Monitoring blood pressure at home is easy and convenient, and it can help women with high blood pressure see how their numbers fluctuate over time so they can adjust their treatment accordingly. The preferable home blood pressure monitor meets standards set by an organization such as the European Society of Hypertension or the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation (AAMI). Women should take the monitor to their doctor to have it calibrated and learn how to use it correctly before they start measuring their blood pressure at home. Your doctor’s office staff can help you learn to use the monitor and make sure it is accurate. More »