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

Salt shakedown: A boon for lowering blood pressure

Health experts say the FDA’s proposed guidelines to scale down sodium levels in processed and restaurant food is a long-awaited step in the right direction. Lowering dietary sodium lowers blood pressure, a key risk factor for heart disease. Current federal guidelines advise getting no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium (one of the main components of salt) per day, but most Americans consume about 3,500 mg a day. About 75% of the sodium people consume comes from processed foods; the biggest sources include breads and rolls, pizza, and cold cuts and cured meats. (Locked) More »

Feel the beat

Measuring resting heart rate (RHR)—the number of heartbeats per minute while at rest—provides a real-time snapshot of heart muscle function. When considered in the context of other markers, such as blood pressure and cholesterol, RHR can be used to identify potential health problems before they manifest as well as gauge a person’s current heart health.  (Locked) More »

Stressing about heart health

Stress has many healthy qualities, but exposure to chronic stress over long periods can have a profound effect on heart health. However, people who learn to identify stress triggers, and change how they react to them, can lower their risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke.  More »

Do you need a cardiologist?

For people with high blood pressure and high cholesterol, a primary care provider can usually effectively manage those conditions. But some people may need more focused care from a general cardiologist, or one with more specialized expertise. (Locked) More »