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

High blood pressure a silent danger in postmenopausal women

Nearly a third of American adults have high blood pressure, half of whom don’t have their blood pressure under control—despite most of them having a doctor and health insurance. Forty percent of people with uncontrolled high blood pressure aren’t aware they have the condition. It’s crucial to treat blood pressure, because it can lead to heart disease, stroke, heart attack, kidney disease, and other health issues if left unchecked. Treatment usually starts with one or more blood pressure medications, along with lifestyle interventions such as diet and exercise. More »

Chelation for heart disease

Many people try chelation therapy for a variety of reasons, but it is unproven and potentially risky as a therapy for heart disease. Instead, use proven measures like daily aspirin, exercise, blood pressure control, and lowering "bad" cholesterol. (Locked) More »

New thinking about stable heart disease

People with stable heart disease are at low risk for heart attack and may not need invasive treatment until significant chest pain is no longer relieved by medication. At this point, the risk of heart attack is greater, and coronary artery bypass surgery or angioplasty should be considered. (Locked) More »

Treating resistant hypertension

When a diuretic plus two other anti-hypertensive medications fail to lower blood pressure to an acceptable level, additional medications should be added until blood pressure responds. Restricting salt and increasing exercise can often help conquer “resistant hypertension.”   (Locked) More »

Drugs may not be best for mild high blood pressure

Blood pressure medicines can reduce heart attacks, strokes, and deaths in people with moderate to severe high blood pressure, but according to one study, they may not significantly reduce heart disease, heart attacks, strokes, or deaths in those with milder elevations in blood pressure. Women with mildly elevated blood pressure may want to try nondrug interventions for lowering blood pressure—such as diet, exercise, and stress management—before turning to medications. (Locked) More »

Hypertension? You're not alone

A third of all Americans have high blood pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and more than half of them don’t have their blood pressure under control. This is because many people do not have a primary care physician or health insurance, and because blood pressures are often not routinely measured in doctors’ offices. Everyone should have his or her blood pressure checked routinely, especially those who are overweight or obese, living a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, eating a high-sodium diet, drinking too much alcohol, or frequently feeling stressed. When it comes to hypertension medication, some experimenting may be needed to find the right combination. (Locked) More »

When should we treat blood pressure?

Blood pressure–lowering medications are known to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke in people whose blood pressure has risen above 160 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg). Among those with lower but still elevated blood pressure, the presence of other cardiovascular risk factors is being used as a guide for whether individuals should begin taking medication. In people whose risk might be slightly elevated, many doctors now prescribe one or two antihypertension medications in an effort to lower the risk. (Locked) More »