Health Notes: High Blood Pressure
High Blood Pressure: The Silent Killer
By Ellen S. Mullen M.D.
High blood pressure or hypertension is caused by your blood running through your vessels at a higher pressure than normal. When this occurs the smaller vessels in your body can be damaged which causes damage to the organs that are receiving blood from these vessels. High blood pressure is diagnosed by checking your blood pressure with a cuff that goes around your arm. Blood pressure readings are made up of two numbers which we separate by a slash. The top number is the systolic blood pressure. It is the peak pressure measured when your heart is squeezing the blood out. The bottom number is called the diastolic pressure and is measured when your heart is relaxing between beats and is refilling with blood.
A normal blood pressure is less than 130/85 and high blood pressure is 140/90 or greater. If your blood pressure is between these two numbers it is called prehypertension. If you have other illnesses such as diabetes or heart disease your doctor may want your blood pressure to be less than 130/80. Why is it important to keep your blood pressure normal? Hypertension increases your risk of stroke, kidney failure, heart disease, heart attack and eye problems.
What can you do to decrease your blood pressure? One of the most important things you can do is to stop smoking if you do smoke. Also losing weight if you are overweight will lower your blood pressure. Exercise regularly, eat more fruits and vegetables and decrease your intake of salt, alcohol and caffeine. Decreasing the stress in your life and relaxing more can also be helpful. Your doctor my have to start you on medications if you are not able to decrease your blood pressure with the above lifestyle changes. Medicines work in many different ways and often you may need more than one medication to achieve a normal blood pressure. You should never discontinue medications without discussing this with your doctor first.
Most persons do not experience any symptoms with high blood pressure. Therefore it is important to regularly check your blood pressure and see your doctor if it is high. Don’t let the “silent killer” catch you off guard!