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

Which blood pressure number is important?

While both numbers in a blood pressure reading are essential for diagnosing and treating high blood pressure, doctors primarily focus on the top number (systolic pressure), as a higher number carries a greater risk of heart attack and stroke. More »

Avoid these common blood pressure measuring mistakes

During a blood pressure measurement, seven common errors can artificially elevate a person’s reading. They include sitting incorrectly, having an unsupported arm, using the wrong size blood pressure cuff, and engaging in conversation during the measurement. Current guidelines also recommend averaging two blood pressure readings taken a minute apart if the first reading indicates high blood pressure (defined as 130/80 mm Hg or higher). (Locked) More »

After standing, a fall in blood pressure

Orthostatic hypotension, a condition marked by a sharp drop in blood pressure after standing up, can cause people to become dizzy or lightheaded. Orthostatic hypotension is more common among older people because they’re more likely to take drugs that can worsen the condition, such as beta blockers (which reduce the heart rate) and alpha blockers (which can reduce blood pressure; they’re used in men to treat an enlarged prostate). Several diseases, including diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and cancer, can contribute to the problem, which has also been linked to an increased risk of heart disease. (Locked) More »

Virtual visits and high blood pressure

It appears that people who have “virtual” office visits over the Internet are able to control their blood pressure just as well as people who have in-person follow-up office visits. More »

Aldosterone overload: An overlooked cause of high blood pressure?

An imbalance of the hormone aldosterone, which helps the body manage water and sodium, may be responsible for about one in 15 cases of high blood pressure. A benign tumor on one of the adrenal glands (which produce several hormones, including aldosterone) is the most common cause of excess aldosterone. This condition, called aldosteronism, may also contribute to coronary microvascular disease, in which the walls of the small arteries in the heart are damaged. (Locked) More »

The benefits of do-it-yourself blood pressure monitoring

People who monitor their blood pressure at home may reach their blood pressure targets more quickly than people who do not. The added information from home readings may help doctors tweak drugs and doses more efficiently. Home blood pressure monitoring may be especially helpful for people newly diagnosed with high blood pressure or those still struggling to reach their targets. Although some people are reluctant to self-monitor because they worry their blood pressure will be too high, that anxiety often dissipates over time as people become more comfortable with self-monitoring. More »

Vegetable of the month: Peppers

Mild, crunchy sweet peppers are low in calories and a good source of vitamins C and A. Spicy hot peppers contain compounds called capsaicinoids, which have several heart-healthy properties. More »