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

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 »

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 »

Blood pressure high? Control LDL

High blood pressure (hypertension) affects 1 in 3 Americans, and doubles their risk of heart disease. More than 75% of people with hypertension also have high "bad" LDL cholesterol. (Locked) More »

"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 »

Meditation offers significant heart benefits

Meditation can be a useful part of cardiovascular risk reduction. It appears to produce changes in brain activity that can lead to less sympathetic nerve outflow from the brain to the rest of the body. It also can lower heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate, oxygen consumption, adrenaline levels, and levels of cortisol, a hormone released in response to stress. There are many types of meditation that can result in physiological benefits, such as guided meditation, transcendental meditation, and mindfulness meditation. It takes at least 10 minutes of meditation per day to get the physiological benefits. 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 »