Important complications of uncontrolled or poorly treated high blood pressure are due to chronic damage that occurs to different organs in the body and include heart attack, congestive heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, peripheral artery disease, and aneurysms (weakening of the walls of an artery, leading to a sac formation or ballooning of the artery wall). Aneurysms can be found in the brain, along the route of the aorta (the large artery that leaves the heart), and other arteries in the abdomen and extremities.
Essential hypertension is also greatly influenced by diet and lifestyle. The link between salt and high blood pressure is especially compelling. People living on the northern islands of Japan eat more salt per capita than anyone else in the world and have the highest incidence of essential hypertension. By contrast, people who add no salt to their food show virtually no traces of essential hypertension.

Not everyone is sensitive to sodium, meaning that not all individuals who eat a high sodium diet will develop high blood pressure as a result. Rather than acting as your own test subject to see if you are salt-sensitive or not, it is advisable to try to follow the American Heart Association's recommendation of less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium (less than 1 teaspoon of table salt) per day. Remember that this is a goal amount for the average of what you eat. If you overindulge in salty foods on day, balance your intake with very low sodium foods the next.


Excessive daytime sleepiness is suggestive of sleep apnea syndrome, but a sleep study is required to diagnose the disorder. Chronic excessive alcohol consumption can also lead to IDH. This may be especially likely if liver damage occurs since angiotensin is usually degraded in the liver. IDH may also be caused by medications, such as oral contraceptives, corticosteroids or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen.
Regular visits with your doctor are also key to controlling your blood pressure. If your blood pressure is well-controlled, check with your doctor about how often you need to check it. Your doctor may suggest checking it daily or less often. If you're making any changes in your medications or other treatments, your doctor may recommend you check your blood pressure starting two weeks after treatment changes and a week before your next appointment.
Sodium (salt) sensitivity: Some people have high sensitivity to sodium (salt), and their blood pressure increases if they use salt. Reducing sodium intake tends to lower their blood pressure. Americans consume 10-15 times more sodium than they need. Fast foods and processed foods contain particularly high amounts of sodium. Many over-the-counter medicines also contain large amounts of sodium. Read food labels and learn about salt content in foods and other products as a healthy first step to reducing salt intake. Fast food restaurants also make the salt and calorie content of their food available to consumers at their restaurants,

Those tears make nice resting places for excess cholesterol. That means that the damage high blood pressure creates inside arteries and blood vessels can actually lead to even more plaque buildup and artery narrowing because of high blood cholesterol. In turn, your heart has to work even harder to pump blood, putting excess strain on your heart muscle.
DASH diet: DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) is a diet plan from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute that helps lower blood pressure. On this plan, you eat a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds, and nuts. The diet is low in saturated fat, cholesterol, sugars, red meat, and salt.
As you age, prevention becomes even more important. Systolic pressure tends to creep up once you’re older than 50, and it’s far more important in predicting the risk of coronary heart disease and other conditions. Certain health conditions, such as diabetes and kidney disease, may also play a role. Talk to your doctor about how you can manage your overall health to help prevent the onset of hypertension.
Eating whole grains like whole wheat breads, brown rice, whole grain cereals, oatmeal, whole wheat pasta, and popcorn is a good way to get fiber. Some fiber helps lower your cholesterol and also keeps you feeling full longer. For a diet of 2,000 calories per day: Eat six to eight servings a day. One serving is a slice of bread, 1 ounce of dry cereal, or ½ cup of cooked whole wheat pasta, rice, or oatmeal (about the size of half a baseball). 

Not only the degree of obesity is important, but also the manner in which the body accumulates extra fat. Some people gain weight around their belly (central obesity or "apple-shaped" people), while others store fat around their hips and thighs ("pear-shaped" people). "Apple-shaped" people tend to have greater health risks for high blood pressure than "pear-shaped" people.


Lifelong control of hypertension will minimize the risk of developing heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, and a variety of other illnesses. Unlike other illnesses in which medications are taken for only a short period of time, high blood pressure medication is usually expected to be taken for the rest of the individual's life. It is uncommon, but not rare, that significant lifestyle changes can lower blood pressure readings to normal.
Trans fat: A type of unhealthy fat that’s created through a food processing method called partial hydrogenation. It’s often found in store-bought cookies, crackers, cakes, and many fried foods. Experts consider it to be one of the worst fats, because it raises LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and lowers HDL (good) cholesterol levels, increasing the risk of heart disease. Avoid trans fats as much as possible.
Sleep apnea syndrome — episodic pauses in breathing during sleep — may also cause IDH by excessive arteriolar narrowing and reduced fluid excretion by the kidneys. The increased heart rate often seen in people with the syndrome may contribute, as it shortens the time between heartbeats so the blood vessels spend more time exposed to the extra blood flow accompanying each heartbeat.
For a normal reading, your blood pressure needs to show a top number (systolic pressure) that’s between 90 and less than 120 and a bottom number (diastolic pressure) that’s between 60 and less than 80. The American Heart Association (AHA) considers blood pressure to be within the normal range when both your systolic and diastolic numbers are in these ranges.
Essential hypertension is also greatly influenced by diet and lifestyle. The link between salt and high blood pressure is especially compelling. People living on the northern islands of Japan eat more salt per capita than anyone else in the world and have the highest incidence of essential hypertension. By contrast, people who add no salt to their food show virtually no traces of essential hypertension.

For older people, often the first number (systolic) is 130 or higher, but the second number (diastolic) is less than 80. This problem is called isolated systolic hypertension, which is due to age-related stiffening of the major arteries. It is the most common form of high blood pressure in older people and can lead to serious health problems (stroke, heart disease, eye problems, and kidney failure) in addition to shortness of breath during light physical activity, lightheadedness upon standing too fast, and falls. Isolated systolic hypertension is treated in the same way as regular high blood pressure (130 or higher for the first number, or 80 or higher for the second number) but may require more than one type of blood pressure medication. If your doctor determines that your systolic pressure is above a normal level for your age, ask how you can lower it.

Mindfulness: The practice of living in the moment and focusing all of your attention on the present experience (in other words, not thinking about what's on your to-do list while you’re eating a quick lunch at your desk). Studies have found many health benefits to practicing mindfulness, including stress reduction, which in turn can lower blood pressure and make heart disease less likely.


In isolated systolic high blood pressure (isolated systolic hypertension, or ISH), systolic blood pressure is elevated (130 mm Hg or higher), but diastolic blood pressure stays below 80 mm Hg. This type of high blood pressure is more common in older adults, especially older women. In fact, the majority of people older than 60 who have hypertension have isolated systolic hypertension.
Obesity: As body weight increases, the blood pressure rises. Obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30 kg/m. A BMI of 25-30 kg/m is considered overweight (BMI=weight in pounds x 703/ height in inches). Being overweight increases the risk of high blood pressure. Healthcare professionals recommend that all individuals who are obese and have high blood pressure lose weight until they are within 15% of their healthy body weight.

How do you check your own blood pressure? It is common to have your blood pressure checked at the doctor's office, but there are many cases where it is important to monitor it at home. It is easy to check blood pressure with an automated machine, but it can also be done manually at home. Learn how to check your own blood pressure and what the results mean. Read now
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