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

Measure blood pressure in both arms

Measuring blood pressure in both arms may reveal important information about a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease. Small differences between the right and left arm are normal. But large ones—more than 10 points—may suggest the presence of artery-clogging plaque in the vessel that supplies blood to the arm with lower blood pressure. Such plaque is a signal of peripheral artery disease, which suggests that arteries in the heart and brain are also clogged, boosting the odds of having a heart attack or stroke. (Locked) More »

When high blood pressure affects the arteries to the lungs

Pulmonary hypertension is a broad category of diseases characterized by shortness of breath, fatigue, and fluid buildup in the right side of the heart. A severe form of the condition known as pulmonary artery hypertension (PAH) can lead to early death. However, several new medications offer expanded treatment options and new hope for people with PAH. (Locked) More »

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 »

Blood pressure drugs associated with fall risk

It appears that exposure to moderate or high doses of any medication to treat high blood pressure is associated with a 30% to 40% increased risk of falls with serious injury, compared with no use of the medications. (Locked) More »

Blood pressure goals: How low should you go?

The higher a person’s blood pressure, the greater the risk of heart attacks, strokes, and death from heart-related illness. Doctor’s usually recommend blood pressure medication when a person’s pressure surpasses 140/90. The higher the pressure to start, the greater the health benefit of lowering it below 140/90. But taking multiple medications, poor health, and older age can make aggressive drug therapy for high blood pressure riskier. But a healthy man with high blood pressure may be able to tolerate more medication and thus benefit more from the treatment. More »

Managing your blood pressure: What the new guidelines mean for you

Blood pressure guidelines released in late 2013 recommended raising the threshold for treatment in people ages 60 and older to 150/90. Yet for now, most experts advise using the 140/90 goal. Women with high blood pressure should lower it through diet, exercise, and medicines, if needed.  (Locked) More »