High Blood Pressure (Part One)

Why is blood pressure important

Everybody has - and needs - blood pressure. Without it, blood can't circulate through your body. And without circulating blood, your vital organs can't get the oxygen and food they need to work.

That's why it's important to know about blood pressure - and how to keep it in the proper range.

When your heart beats, it pumps blood into your arteries and creates pressure in them. This pressure (blood pressure) causes your blood to flow to all parts of your body.

If you're healthy, your arteries are elastic. They stretch when your heart pumps blood through them. How much they stretch depends on how much force the blood exerts.

Your heart beats about 60 to 80 times a minute under normal conditions. Your blood pressure rises on contractions and falls when your heart relaxes between beats. Your blood pressure can change from minute to minute, with changes in posture, exercise or sleeping.

What is blood pressure?

Two numbers are recorded when measuring your blood pressure, such as 117/78 mm Hg (millimeters of mercury). The top or larger number (systolic pressure) measures the pressure in your arteries when your heart beats. The bottom or smaller number (diastolic pressure) measures the pressure while your heart rests between beats.


Normal blood pressure is below 120/80 mm Hg. Blood pressure of 120-139/80-89 is considered "prehypertension." If you're an adult and your blood pressure is 140/90 mm Hg or higher, you have high blood pressure. If you have diabetes or kidney disease, your doctor will want your blood pressure to be lower than 130/80 mm Hg. If your blood pressure goes above this threshold and stays there, you have high blood pressure.
Blood Pressure Category Systolic (mm Hg) Diastolic (mm Hg)
Normal less than 120 and less than 80
Prehypertension 120-139 or 80-89
Hypertension. Stage 1 140-159 or 90-99
Hypertension. Stage 2 160 or higher or 100 or higher

Source: Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention. Detection Evaluation, and Treatment ol High Blood Pressure (JNC 7 Complete report) Hypertension 2003:42:1206.

Your doctor may take several readings over time before making a judgment about high blood pressure.

What causes high blood pressure?

High blood pressure, also called hypertension, isn't nervous tension. People who have high blood pressure don't have to be tense, compulsive or nervous. In fact, you can have high blood pressure and not know it. High blood pressure usually has no symptoms. That's why it's called the "silent killer."

About 90-95 percent of the cases of high blood pressure have no known cause. But some factors increase your chances of developing this disease. These are called risk factors.

Risk factors you can control

o Obesity - People with a body mass index (BMI) of 30.0 or higher are more likely to develop high blood pressure. Click for an easy BMI calculator.
o Eating too much salt - This increases blood pressure in some people.
o Alcohol - Heavy and regular use of alcohol can increase blood pressure dramatically.
o Lack of exercise - An inactive lifestyle makes it easier to become overweight and increases the chance of high blood pressure.
o Stress - This is often mentioned as a risk factor. However, stress levels are hard to measure, and responses to stress vary from person to person.

Risk factors you can't control

o Race - African Americans develop high blood pressure more often than Caucasians do, and it tends to occur earlier and be more severe.
o Heredity - A tendency to have high blood pressure runs in families. If your parents or other close blood relatives have it, you're more likely to develop it.
o Age - In general, the older you get, the greater your chance of developing high blood pressure. It occurs most often in people over age 35. Men seem to develop it most often between age 35 and 50. Women are more likely to develop it after menopause.

Can you tell when your blood pressure is high?

No, definitely not. High blood pressure usually has no symptoms. In fact, many people have it for years without knowing it. That's why it's so dangerous.

The only way to find out if you have this disease is to have your blood pressure measured. Your doctor or another health professional can check it for you. See the chart on pages 2-3 to see where your blood pressure falls.

Can high blood pressure damage your body?

Yes! It can hurt your body in many ways. Mainly it adds to the workload of your heart and arteries. Because your heart must work harder than normal for a long time, it tends to get bigger. A slightly enlarged heart may still work well, but if it's enlarged very much, it may have a hard time meeting your body's demands.

As you grow older, your arteries will harden and become less elastic. This occurs in all people, regardless of blood pressure. But having high blood pressure tends to speed up this process. High blood pressure increases your risk of stroke. It can also damage your kidneys and eyes. Compared with people with controlled high blood pressure, people with uncontrolled high blood pressure are...

o three times more likely to develop coronary heart disease.
o six times more likely to develop congestive heart failure.
o seven times more likely to have a stroke.

If you have high blood pressure, follow your doctor's advice. Most high blood pressure can't be cured, but it usually can be controlled. And its effects can be prevented or reduced - if it's treated and controlled early, and kept under control.


What can be done about high blood pressure?

Most treatments for high blood pressure rely on some combination of losing weight, diet. regular physical activity and medication. Here's a brief discussion of each option:

Your physician and other qualified health professionals (registered dietitians, nurses, physician's assistants, etc.) can help you start or follow a diet thai will help to reduce blood pressure and control weight. It will include eating more fruit and vegetables, whole-grain cereals, rice and bread, and less fried food and fatty meat.

Weight Reduction
Many people with high blood pressure are also overweight. If that's true of you, your doctor can prescribe a diet and exercise for you. Often when people lose weight, their blood pressure drops automatically. Being overweight is a risk factor for heart disease. By losing weight you'll help your blood pressure and help yourself stay healthy in other ways, too.

If you're given a diet, follow it closely, including advice about reducing how much alcohol you drink. Alcoholic drinks are low in nutrients and high in calories, so if you're trying to lose weight, avoid them.

Sometimes eating less sodium can help lower blood pressure. If this might help you, your doctor will recommend a low-salt diet. This means you'll have to...

o Avoid salty foods.

o Cut down on how much salt you use in cooking and at the table.

o Start reading package labels regularly to learn about the sodium content of prepared foods.

Most Americans eat much more salt than they need. By experimenting with herbs and spices a seasonings, you can still enjoy tasty meals.

Don't make major changes in your diet without first getting proper medical advice. And once a diet has been prescribed for you, stick to it.

Physical Activity
Don't be afraid to be active. Physical activity should be part of your daily program. It helps to reduce blood pressure and it can even help you lose weight or stay at your best weight. Click here for an article on Fitness Fundamentals

Your doctor can suggest the best kind of exercise program for you. Whatever physical activity you enjoy and do regularly will probably be just Fine. A minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week is recommended.

Some people need medication to help them reduce high blood pressure. Many drugs are available for this. Some get rid of excess fluid and salt. Others open up narrowed blood vessels. Still others prevent blood vessels from constricting and narrowing.

Medicines lower high blood pressure in most cases. But every person reacts differently to medication. You may need a trial period before your doctor finds the best medicine for you.

Know these important points about any prescribed medication:

o the name of the medication

o what it's supposed to do

o how often to take it

o how much to take

o how long to take it

o how to store it (Does the medicine need to be in a cool place?)

o if there's a specific time of day it should be taken

o if you need to avoid foods, drinks, other medications or activities while on the drug

o what results, reactions or side effects you might expect from the medication, and what to do if you have reactions or side effects

o if there's any written information to help you remember key points about the drug
o what to do in case you miss a dose

o if the medication can cause side effects if you become pregnant

o what to do if you get sick from something else or have to go to the hospital

Know the names and effects of all other medications you're taking, and tell your doctor about them.

How can you help yourself?


 Omron HEM-780 Automatic Blood Pressure Monitor with ComFit Cuff 

 Omron HEM-790IT Automatic Blood Pressure Monitor with Advanced Omron Health Management Software 

 Panasonic EW3006S Wrist Blood Pressure Monitor 

 Coromega Omega-3 Supplement, Orange Flavor, Squeeze Packets, 90-Count Box 

 The DASH Diet Action Plan: Based on the National Institutes of Health Research: Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension 

 The Blood Pressure Miracle 

 What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About: Hypertension: The Revolutionary Nutrition and Lifestyle Program to Help Fight High Blood Pressure 

 The Blood Pressure Cure: 8 Weeks to Lower Blood Pressure without Prescription Drugs 

 Harvard Medical School Guide to Lowering Your Blood Pressure 

 In 12 weeks You Can Control Your High Blood Pressure Without Drugs 

It takes a team to treat your high blood pressure successfully. Your doctor can't do it alone, and neither can you. You've got to work together.

Even so, you can do more than anyone else to bring your blood pressure under control - and keep it there. You can help yourself if you...

1. Keep appointments with your doctor. This will help everyone monitor your blood pressure program and make any adjustments to keep your blood pressure under control.

2. Take prescribed blood pressure drugs as directed. If you don't feel well after taking a medication, tell your doctor how you feel. This will help your doctor adjust your treatment so you won't have unpleasant side effects.

3. Follow medical advice about diet and physical activity. Make an effort to lose weight if it's recommended. Make changes in your general health habits if you need to.

4. Remind yourself that as long as you and your team of health advisors work together, you can control your blood pressure.

High blood pressure is a lifelong disease. It can be controlled but not cured. Once you begin to manage it and start a treatment program, maintaining a lower blood pressure is easier. By controlling your high blood pressure, you'll lower your risk of diseases like stroke, heart attack, heart failure and kidney disease.

You can do it!

Part Two discusses Drug Treatment and Side Effects.

Click Here to Continue to Part Two - High Blood Pressure