What is Hypertension or High Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure refers to the force of blood pushing against artery walls as it courses through the body. Like air in a tire or water in a hose, blood fills arteries to a certain capacity. Just as too much air pressure can damage a tire or too much water pushing through a garden hose can damage the hose, high blood pressure can threaten healthy arteries and lead to life-threatening conditions such as heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease. Hypertension is the leading cause of stroke and a major cause of heart attack. In the United States alone, approximately 73 million people have high blood pressure.
How is Blood Pressure Measured
A blood pressure reading appears as two numbers. The first and higher of the two is a measure of systolic pressure, or the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats and fills them with blood. The second number measures diastolic pressure, or the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between beats.
Normal blood pressure in a healthy adult should be around 120/80. People with blood pressure readings of 140/90 or higher, taken on at least 2 occasions, are said to have high blood pressure. If your pressure remains high your doctor will probably begin treatment. People with blood pressure readings of 200/120 or higher need treatment immediately.
Treatment for Hypertension
Treatment for hypertension comes in many forms - from lifestyle changes to medication.
A critical step in preventing and treating high blood pressure is a healthy lifestyle. You can lower your blood pressure with the following lifestyle changes:
- Losing weight if you are overweight or obese.
- Quitting smoking.
- Eating a healthy diet, including the DASH diet (eating more fruits, vegetables, and low fat dairy products, less saturated and total fat).
- Reducing the amount of sodium (salt) in your diet to 2,300 milligrams (about 1 teaspoon of salt) a day or less.
- Getting regular aerobic exercise (such as brisk walking at least 30 minutes a day, several days a week).
- Limiting alcohol from two drinks a day for men, one drink a day for women.
Take it Seriously
You have a lot of living to do and a lot of people who want and need you around. Check your blood pressure often either at the doctor's office, the blood pressure machine at the store, or a home blood pressure cuff. If you have high blood pressure, learn more about it, take it seriously, and take your medication every day. Make those lifestyle changes that will help lower your blood pressure, and live a long, happy life!