What Is High Blood Pressure
Blood pressure is the measurement of the pressure or force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls. In high blood pressure , this pressure against the blood vessel walls is consistently too high. High blood pressure is often called the silent killer because you may not be aware that anything is wrong, but the damage is occurring within your body.
What You Should Know About Fluctuating Blood Pressure In The Elderly
As you help monitor your loved ones blood pressure, keep in mind that numbers fluctuate slightly throughout the day thats normal. Several factors influence your blood pressure numbers. For example, your blood pressure may be lower if youre resting and higher if youre stressed. This means you may have a normal reading in the morning and an elevated number in the afternoon.
If youre concerned about excessive fluctuation in your loved ones blood pressure numbers:
- Read instructions to ensure youre using your home blood pressure monitor equipment correctly. Variations in how you measure your loved ones blood pressure can result in different readings.
- Bring your home monitor to your next doctors appointment to compare readings.
- Be aware of white coat hypertension. In some cases, a persons blood pressure may be high at a doctors office but normal at home. This could be attributed to the stress related to a doctors appointment.
Your loved ones doctor may want you to keep a blood pressure diary with several readings a day for a couple of weeks to monitor any variations.
How Is High Blood Pressure Diagnosed
High blood pressure usually has no symptoms. So the only way to find out if you have it is to get regular blood pressure checks from your health care provider. Your provider will use a gauge, a stethoscope or electronic sensor, and a blood pressure cuff. He or she will take two or more readings at separate appointments before making a diagnosis.
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For children and teens, the health care provider compares the blood pressure reading to what is normal for other kids who are the same age, height, and gender.
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How To Self Monitor
Home blood pressure monitoring is different than taking it at your doctor’s office because youll be comparing one relatively steady measurement to another over time. When scheduling checks, there are some factors to keep in mind so that you get more accurate results. Follow these tips if you are testing at home:
Put Some Dash In Your Lunch And Dinner
Dont worry were not back in gym class again. While dashing is indeed a good way to get some vigorous exercise, its also about what youre eating, too.
DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. Its a high blood pressure diet specifically designed to focus on foods that reduce blood pressure that is, foods rich in calcium, potassium and magnesium as well as low in sodium and fat.
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Reduce Stress Through Meditation And Rest
Chronic stress can lead to chronic elevations in the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline, says Dr. Desai. These hormones constrict the arteries and cause weight gain, which further increases blood pressure.
He recommends reducing stress by using breathing exercises, practicing meditation, completing physical exercise, practicing yoga, logging quality sleep, taking breaks throughout the day, spending time in nature, listening to music and eating a balanced diet.
How Do I Lower My Blood Pressure
The steps to lower your blood pressure aren’t as painful as you may be thinking. If you smoke, you’ll need to stop. Otherwise, lowering your blood pressure is as easy as the “more of this, less of that” approach you’re used to hearing about, including:
- Maintaining a healthy weight. If you’re overweight, a loss of as few as 10 pounds can lower your blood pressure.
- Consuming low levels of salt. Keep your salt intake under 1,500 mg/day.
- Getting plenty of exercise. Try to exercise for at least 90 minutes every week.
- Limiting alcohol. Keep your alcohol intake to one drink per day if you’re a woman, or two drinks per day if you’re a man.
- Eating healthy. Aim for a diet low in saturated and trans fats and rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
“Not only may young people be tempted to brush off their elevated or high blood pressure,” says Dr. Nasir, “but they are less likely to be diagnosed by doctors during their office visits. Apart from taking steps now to reduce risk factors down the road, its important to discuss with your doctor if your blood pressure is consistently high.”
This article was updated on June 2, 2021 to reflect how the COVID-19 pandemic impacts a person’s everyday health and wellness.
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When To See A Doctor
Although high blood pressure does not usually cause symptoms, anyone experiencing a sudden, severe headache or nosebleed should check their blood pressure.
If their blood pressure is above 180/120 mm Hg, they should stay rested for 5 minutes and recheck their blood pressure. If the blood pressure is still higher than 180/120 mm Hg, they need to seek medical help at their doctors office.
If a person is experiencing severe symptoms, such as chest pain, shortness of breath, or visual difficulty, they need to call 911 for emergency medical treatment as they may be experiencing a hypertensive crisis.
Medications to reduce blood pressure can cause side effects such as dizziness. If this side effect does not go away or affects a persons daily activities, they should speak with their family doctor.
Stroke And Brain Problems
High blood pressure can cause the arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the brain to burst or be blocked, causing a stroke. Brain cells die during a stroke because they do not get enough oxygen. Stroke can cause serious disabilities in speech, movement, and other basic activities. A stroke can also kill you.
Having high blood pressure, especially in midlife, is linked to having poorer cognitive function and dementia later in life. Learn more about the link between high blood pressure and dementia from the National Institutes of Healths Mind Your Risks®external icon campaign.
Fresh Fish For Protein Boosts Vitamin D Intake
Fish is a great source of lean protein, and some varieties, such as trout, are rich in vitamin D, which some studies suggest may help lower blood pressure. People usually dont get enough vitamin D from food, so this is one way to boost your intake, Dean says.
A fresh fish fillet needs only minimal preparation. Keep it a low-sodium food to lower blood pressure by brushing on a little olive oil, sprinkling it with cracked black pepper, and baking or grilling it for a few minutes its easy and flavorful.
When To Call Your Doctor
A hypertensive crisisdefined as blood pressure above 180/120 mm Hgrequires immediate medical attention. Call 911 if you are also experiencing symptoms such as chest pain, back pain, shortness of breath, difficulty speaking, a change in vision, weakness, or numbness.
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Can High Blood Pressure Affect Pregnancy
High blood pressure complicates about 10% of all pregnancies. There are several different types of high blood pressure during pregnancy and range from mild to serious. The forms of high blood pressure during pregnancy include:
Chronic hypertension: High blood pressure which is present prior to pregnancy.
Chronic hypertension with superimposed preeclampsia: Preeclampsia, which develops in someone who has chronic hypertension .
Gestational hypertension: High blood pressure in the latter part of pregnancy, but no other signs or symptoms of preeclampsia are present. Some women will later develop preeclampsia, while others probably have high blood pressure before the pregnancy.
Preeclampsia: This is found in the latter half of pregnancy and results in hypertension, protein in the urine and generalized swelling in the mother. It can affect other organs in the body and cause seizures .
Your blood pressure will be checked regularly during prenatal appointments, but if you have concerns about your blood pressure, be sure to talk with your provider.
What Is The Normal Range For Blood Pressure
Blood pressure numbers less than 120/80 mm Hg are considered normal, according to the American Heart Association.
Blood pressure numbers from 120 to 129 systolic and less than 80 mm Hg diastolic are considered elevated. People in this range are likely to develop high blood pressure unless steps are taken to control the condition.
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What Is Normal Blood Pressure
For years we have been told that a normal blood pressure reading is 120/80 however, more and more doctors have now lowered these numbers to 115/75. Blood pressure is different for everyone as many factors can have an effect on the numbers.
Our blood pressure refers to the amount of force behind the blood as it hits the arterial walls. As the heart pumps the blood, an ideal pressure sees the blood push against the walls that are flexible enough to expand and retract easily. Over time, our age, diet, and physical activity play a role on the elasticity of our blood vessels. With a loss of flexibility due to hardening of the walls, the heart needs to work harder to push the blood.
These factors determine the blood pressure numbers. The systolic number is the top number, and it indicates the pressure as the heart beats or pushes the blood throughout the body. The diastolic number is the bottom number, and refers to the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between beats. During this time, the heart receives oxygen as it fills with blood.
How Can You Reduce Your Risk Of High Blood Pressure
Fortunately, there are certain things you can do to help reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure. These include the following:
- Eat right: A healthy diet is an important step in keeping your blood pressure normal. The DASH diet emphasizes adding fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to your diet while reducing the amount of sodium. Since it is rich in fruits and vegetables, which are naturally lower in sodium than many other foods, the DASH diet makes it easier to eat less salt and sodium.
- Keep a healthy weight: Going hand-in-hand with a proper diet is keeping a healthy weight. Since being overweight increases your blood pressure, losing excess weight with diet and exercise will help lower your blood pressure to healthier levels.
- Cut down on salt: The recommendation for salt in your diet is to have less than 2,400 milligrams of sodium a day . To prevent hypertension, you should keep your salt intake below this level. Don’t forget that most restaurant foods and many processed and frozen foods contain high levels of salt. Use herbs and spices that do not contain salt in recipes to flavor your food do not add salt at the table.
- Keep active: Even simple physical activities, such as walking, can lower your blood pressure .
- Drinkalcoholin moderation: Having more than one drink a day and two drinks a day can raise blood pressure.
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Easy Things You Can Do To Lower Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is dangerous. It can lead to many health problems, including heart attack, stroke, heart failure, angina, coronary artery disease, peripheral artery disease, kidney disease, vision loss, sexual dysfunction and more.
Fortunately, high blood pressure can often be prevented or controlled.
Here are some easy things you can do to lower your blood pressure or help prevent high blood pressure in the first place.
Set small, easily attainable goals, and when you reach them, set bigger ones. Step by step, you will take control of your health and your blood pressure.
Try Meditation Or Yoga
Mindfulness and meditation, including transcendental meditation, have long been used and studied as methods to reduce stress. A 2012 study notes that one university program in Massachusetts has had more than 19,000 people participate in a meditation and mindfulness program to reduce stress .
Yoga, which commonly involves breathing control, posture, and meditation techniques, can also be effective in reducing stress and blood pressure.
A 2013 review on yoga and blood pressure found an average blood pressure decrease of 3.62 mm Hg diastolic and 4.17 mm Hg systolic when compared to those who didnt exercise. Studies of yoga practices that included breath control, postures, and meditation were nearly twice as effective as yoga practices that didnt include all three of these elements .
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Break Up Periods Of Uninterrupted Sitting
Research links prolonged sitting with obesity and a cluster of conditionsincreased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol levelsthat make up metabolic syndrome. One study, published in 2018 in the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, suggests that breaking up prolonged sitting with bouts of light physical activity may reduce blood pressure in people with hypertension.
Although experts are still learning about what kind of patterns of activity or inactivity have consequences for health, says Dr. Krumholz, you should punctuate the day with periods of activity. Every half hour, get up and stretch, walk, or do some other form of light activity. Another trick: Return e-mails, texts, and phone calls standing up.
What Can I Do To Lower My Blood Pressure
Heres how to lower blood pressure with lifestyle changes:
- Exercise: Make regular physical activity part of your daily routine even just a half hour per day can boost health and help you achieve a healthy weight. Aerobic exercise in particular has been studied as a possible non-pharmacological treatment for high blood pressure. Try taking the stairs at work or walking around while youre on the phone.
- Weight loss : Even losing just two pounds can lower systolic blood pressure, Dr. DePalma says. Usually, if someone loses up to 5% of his or her body weight, it will have a significant impact on blood pressure.
- Avoid all nicotine: Skip this stimulant in all its forms, like smoking, vaping, patches, and chew.
- Avoid drugs: Recreational drugs can affect your blood pressure in addition to every other part of your life.
- Monitor your medications: Some medications and supplements can alter the effectiveness of blood pressure medication.
- Practice mindfulness: Reduce stress and your blood pressure with reduce with it. Try deep breathing exercises when you feel your blood pressure rising.
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Checking Blood Pressure At Home
Keeping track of blood pressure at home is important for many people, especially if you have high blood pressure. This helps you and your doctor find out if your treatment is working.
Your doctor may also suggest that you check your pressure at home if they think you may have âwhite coat hypertension.â Itâs a real condition. The stress of being in a doctorâs office raises your blood pressure, but when youâre home, itâs normal.
Ask your doctor to recommend an easy-to-use home blood pressure monitor. Make sure the cuff fits properly. If your arm is too big for the cuff, the reading may be higher than your blood pressure really is. Ask your doctor for a larger cuff or make sure you buy a home monitor with a cuff that fits you.
You also can use a wrist blood pressure monitor, but they often arenât as accurate. Follow the directions that come with the device to make sure you are using it correctly.
No matter which type of blood pressure monitor you have, itâs a good idea to take it to your doctorâs office. You can compare its reading to the numbers your doctor gets. Avoid caffeine, cigarettes, and exercise for at least 30 minutes before the test.
When you take your blood pressure at home, sit up straight in a chair and put both feet on the floor. Ask your doctor or nurse to show you the right way to position your arm so you get accurate readings.
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High Blood Pressure Facts
High blood pressure is serious because it can lead to major health problems. Make a point of learning what blood pressure should be. And, remember:
If your doctor asks you to take your blood pressure at home, keep in mind:
- There are many home blood pressure monitors for sale. Ask your doctor, nurse, or pharmacist which monitor you need and how to use it. Have your monitor checked at the doctor’s office to make sure it works correctly.
- Avoid smoking, exercise, and caffeine 30 minutes before checking your blood pressure.
- Make sure you are sitting with your feet uncrossed and on the floor, and that your back is resting against something.
- Relax quietly for five minutes before checking your blood pressure.
- Keep a list of your blood pressure numbers, what time you measured your blood pressure, and when you took your blood pressure medication . Share this information with your doctor, physician’s assistant, or nurse.
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