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 »

Health tips for former smokers

Quitting smoking is a huge step forward for improving health and extending life. The well-documented health risks associated with smoking include heart attack, stroke, lung and other cancers, insulin resistance, and tooth loss. However, the body begins to repair the damage from smoking within minutes after the last cigarette is done. To fully reap the benefits, it’s important to take steps to remain smoke-free and to pay attention to health habits, screenings, and vaccinations. (Locked) More »

Try this to lower your blood pressure

It appears that monitoring blood pressure at home helps control hypertension better than just a doctor visit. Harvard experts say it’s because of two important factors. One, paying more attention to blood pressure levels helps people know when their blood pressure is elevated, which makes them more likely to ask for adjustments in medications. Two, home monitoring encourages people to become partners in the management of their blood pressure, which means they’ll be more likely to exercise and reduce salt intake, which are also important to lower high blood pressure. (Locked) 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 »

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 »