HDL cholesterol: Two types of cholesterol are found in your bloodstream: HDL and LDL. HDL is the “good” kind. It acts as a scavenger, picking up extra cholesterol and taking it back to your liver. When a doctor tests your blood for cholesterol levels, you want your HDL levels to be high. HDL levels of 60 or more help to lower your risk for heart disease.
For many people, high or low blood pressure is manageable. For high blood pressure, your outlook is best if you take lifestyle steps that support overall heart health and follow your doctor’s recommendations about medications to manage your blood pressure. For low blood pressure, it’s important to identify the cause and follow through with any recommended treatment plans.
Both high blood pressure and low blood pressure need to be managed. Overall, it’s much more common to have high blood pressure. According to the American College of Cardiology, almost half of the adults in the United States now fit the new definition of high blood pressure. Not surprisingly, the risk factors for these two conditions are very different.
The goal of treating systolic hypertension is to delay and reduce the extent of damage to the heart, the cerebrovascular system, and the kidneys. Lifestyle interventions are a crucial element of successful treatment, including a diet low in sodium (salt) and rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Clinical trials have also documented the beneficial effects of weight loss, increased physical activity, and limiting alcohol consumption.
You may be directed to seek medical care if blood pressure readings are elevated if done as part of a community health screening. Isolated elevated blood pressure readings do not necessarily make the diagnosis of hypertension. Blood pressure readings vary throughout the day, and your primary care provider may record a different reading than the one that was measured in a screening that sent you in for care.
SOURCES: : Patient Page: "Hypertension." American Heart Association: "Understanding Blood Pressure Readings," "What is High Blood Pressure?" AHA HeartHub for Patients: "High Blood Pressure." "The Seventh Report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure." American College of Cardiology: "2017 Guideline for the Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Management of High Blood Pressure in Adults."
The brain requires unobstructed blood flow to nourish its many functions. Very high, sustained blood pressure will eventually cause blood vessels to weaken. Over time these weaken vessels can break, and blood will leak into the brain. The area of the brain that is being fed by these broken vessels start to die, and this will cause a stroke. Additionally, if a blot clot blocks a narrowed artery, blood ceases to flow and a stroke will occur.
The main risk from high cholesterol is coronary heart disease. If the cholesterol level is too high, cholesterol can build up in the walls of your arteries. Over time, this build-up -- called plaque -- causes hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis. This causes arteries to become narrowed, which slows the blood flow to the heart muscle. Reduced blood flow can result in angina (chest pain) or in a heart attack if a blood vessel gets blocked completely.
Remember, though, there are many steps you can take to lower your blood pressure. It’s important to work together with your health care team to set your blood pressure goal—the reading you’d like to consistently see when your blood pressure is taken—and how you can best reach it. If you have coronary artery disease, diabetes or chronic kidney disease, managing high blood pressure is especially important.
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Instead of an arbitrary goal to “lose weight,” talk with your doctor about a healthy weight for you. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a weight loss goal of one to two pounds a week. That means starting off eating 500 calories less per day than what you normally eat. Then decide on what physical activity you can start in order to reach that goal. If exercising five nights a week is too hard to work into your schedule, aim for one more night than what you’re doing right now. When that fits comfortably into your schedule, add another night.