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

Acetaminophen may boost blood pressure

A small Swiss study found that daily use of acetaminophen can cause an increase in blood pressure, which is of concern to people with cardiovascular disease. When the participants took acetaminophen, average systolic blood pressure increased from 122.4 to 125.3, while the average diastolic pressure increased from 73.2 to 75.4. Blood pressure stayed steady when participants took the placebo. More »

Let's go nuts

Nuts contain healthy unsaturated fats, protein, and important nutrients like potassium, and there is ample evidence that eating nuts regularly helps protect against heart disease. Numerous studies have shown that if you put people on nut-filled diets, favorable effects on cholesterol levels, blood pressure readings, and inflammatory factors follow. And in large epidemiologic studies, high nut consumption has been associated with lower rates of heart disease. An analysis of data from the Harvard-based Nurses' Health Study showed that having one serving of nuts a day is associated with a 30% lower risk of heart disease compared with having one serving of red meat a day. (Locked) More »

Takotsubo cardiomyopathy (broken-heart syndrome)

Takotsubo cardiomyopathy, also called broken-heart syndrome, is a weakening of the left ventricle that is usually the result of severe stress. Its symptoms resemble those of a heart attack, and treatment is usually the same as that for heart failure, possibly beta blockers, ACE inhibitors, and diuretics (water pills). More »

Strategies for cutting back on salt

The Institute of Medicine's newly released report, Strategies to Reduce Sodium Intake in the United States, focuses on big-picture strategies for reining in America's salt habit. Although the report's recommendations represent an essential step forward, there are many things that individuals, chefs, and organizations can do right now to reduce sodium. Many of these guidelines offer a "stealth health" approach to sodium reduction — ways that sodium can be reduced with no change or minimal change to consumer food experiences or choices. Others suggest ways to rebalance and re-imagine food choices as well as introduce new foods that can easily translate into satisfying meals. More »

Out in the cold

Winter can be tough on the body, with increased rates of respiratory diseases and cardiac events, but cold weather also helps stimulate the body's calorie-burning fat. Dutch researchers reported findings in The New England Journal of Medicine in 2009 that showed that moderately cool temperatures of 61? F activated brown fat in 23 of 24 study volunteers. No one is suggesting that cold weather be used for dieting purposes (not yet anyway). But when we get chilled this winter, we may take some consolation that at least we're firing up those brown fat cells. More »