Blood Pressure Matters : Keep Hypertension in Check

Health News

High blood
pressure is sometimes called a “silent killer,” because it usually has no
warning signs, yet it can lead to life-threatening conditions like heart attack
or stroke. The good news is that high blood pressure, or hypertension, can
often be prevented or treated. Early diagnosis and simple, healthy changes can
keep high blood pressure from seriously damaging your health.

Normal blood
flow delivers nutrients and oxygen to all parts of your body, including
important organs like your heart, brain, and kidneys. Your beating heart helps
to push blood through your vast network of blood vessels, both large and small.
Your blood vessels, in turn, constantly adjust. They become narrower or wider
to maintain your blood pressure and keep blood flowing at a healthy rate.

It’s normal
for your blood pressure to go up and down throughout each day. Blood pressure
is affected by time of day, exercise, the foods you eat, stress, and other
factors. Problems can arise, though, if your blood pressure stays too high for
too long.

High blood
pressure can make your heart work too hard and lose strength. The high force of
blood flow can damage your blood vessels, making them weak, stiff, or narrower.
Over time, hypertension can harm several important organs, including your
heart, kidneys, brain, and eyes.

“Hypertension
is a leading risk factor for death and disability worldwide,” says Dr. Paul
Whelton, an expert in hypertension and kidney disease at Tulane University.
“High blood pressure raises the risk of having a heart attack, heart failure,
stroke, or kidney disease.”

Anyone, even
children, can develop high blood pressure. But the risk for hypertension rises
with age. “Once people are in their 60s, about two-thirds of the population is
affected by hypertension,” Whelton says.

Excess
weight or having a family history of high blood pressure also raises your risk
for hypertension.

Blood
pressure is given as 2 numbers. The first number represents the pressure in
your blood vessels as the heart beats (called systolic pressure). The second is
the pressure as your heart relaxes and fills with blood (diastolic pressure).
Experts generally agree that the safest blood pressure—or “normal” blood
pressure—is 120/80 or lower, meaning systolic blood pressure is 120 or less and
diastolic pressure is 80 or less.

“Hypertension
is defined as having an average blood pressure of above 140/90,” says NIH’s Dr.
Lawrence Fine, who oversees research on the treatment and prevention of
hypertension. Since blood pressure can vary widely from day to day, a diagnosis
of hypertension is usually based on an average of 2 or more readings taken on 2
or more occasions.

If your
blood pressure falls between “normal” and “hypertension,” it’s sometimes called
prehypertension. People with prehypertension are more likely to end up with
high blood pressure if they don’t take steps to prevent it.

“We know we
can prevent high blood pressure through diet, weight loss, and physical
activity,” Whelton says. “We can also treat it, and we can treat it
effectively.”

If you’re
diagnosed with high blood pressure, your doctor will prescribe a treatment
plan. You’ll likely be advised to make healthy lifestyle changes (see the Wise
Choices box). You may also need to take medications. The goal of treatment is
to reduce your blood pressure enough to avoid more serious problems.

For
Healthy Blood Pressure

Keep a
healthy weight. Ask your doctor if you need to lose weight.

Be
physically active. Get moving for at least 30 minutes most days of the week.

Eat a
healthy diet. Choose an eating plan rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains,
and low-fat dairy and low in saturated fat and added sugars.

Cut down on
salt. Many Americans eat more sodium (found in salt) than they need. Most of
the salt comes from processed food (such as soup and baked goods).

Drink
alcohol in moderation, if at all. Men should have no more than 2 drinks a day;
women no more than 1 drink a day.

Don’t smoke.
Smoking raises your risk for heart disease, stroke, and other health problems.

Get a good
night’s sleep. Tell your doctor if you’ve been told you snore or sound like you
stop breathing briefly when you sleep—a possible sign of sleep apnea. Treating
sleep apnea and getting a good night’s sleep can help reduce blood pressure.

Take
prescribed drugs as directed. If you need drugs to help lower your blood
pressure, you still should follow the lifestyle changes described above.

(Note – This news is not a medical consultation in any case. You can not make any decision based on this news story. Do not become a doctor yourself, consult a qualified doctor.)

Source : A monthly newsletter from the National Institutes of Health, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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