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

"Low salt" still the dietary rule

A panel of experts appointed by the Institute of Medicine was asked determine whether people who reduce their salt intake to the low level recommended by the American Heart Association have better health outcomes—not just markers of good health, such as normal blood pressure, but less disease and longer lives. The panel found very few studies of health outcomes in people with very low salt intake. Those they did find were in European studies of people who received an unusually extreme fluid-restriction treatment for heart failure not used in the U.S. Those people did worse when they also reduced their salt intake to very low levels. Some press reports wrongly took this to mean that low-salt diets aren't heart healthy. In fact, there's good evidence that the high-salt diets that most Americans eat are bad for health and lowering sodium intake is a smart move. (Locked) More »

What you need to know about: Diuretics

Diuretics are usually prescribed as a first-line treatment for high blood pressure, though many people require additional drugs for blood pressure management, such as beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, or angiotensin-receptor blockers (ARBs). Diuretics help lower blood pressure by reducing the amount of sodium and water in the body. The three main types of diuretics are loop diuretics, thiazide diuretics, and potassium-sparing diuretics. Sometimes a combination of the drugs is prescribed. Side effects include frequent urination, lightheadedness, and fatigue. (Locked) More »

7 things you can do to prevent a stroke

Aging and a family history can increase your risk for a stroke, but women can reduce this risk by managing factors that are under their control. Lowering high blood pressure, keeping weight in check, exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, losing weight, managing atrial fibrillation and diabetes, and quitting smoking can dramatically decrease the risk of a stroke. More »

How to cope with drug-resistant hypertension

When three or more medications are unable to keep blood pressure under control, the condition is known as resistant hypertension. It’s usually caused by nonadherence to medication regimens, too much salt in the diet, and side effects from other conditions, such as a lack of sleep or kidney problems. Treatment focuses on discovering and addressing the causes. Recent research suggests that renal denervation is both safe and effective at helping to manage resistant hypertension. It’s a catheter procedure that uses radiofrequency to destroy overactive nerves in the renal (kidney) arteries. Exercise and improved diet can also help lower hypertension. (Locked) More »

Get your heart pumping in the fight against forgetfulness

Regular moderately intense exercise up to 150 minutes per week releases brain chemicals that support better memory, concentration, and mental sharpness. Exercise also maintains healthy blood pressure and weight, helps you feel more energetic, lifts your mood, lowers stress and anxiety, and keeps your heart healthy. To get the most brain benefit, exercise regularly to get your heart rate up to 70% of maximum. To succeed at exercise, do it with a partner, outdoors, and in a way that is fun for you. More »