Your heart is a muscle about the size of your fist. It’s made up of four chambers and contains four valves. The valves open and close to let blood move through the chambers and into and out of your heart. According to the American Heart Association, your heart beats 60 to 100 times per minute, or about 100,000 times per day. As it beats, blood is forced against your artery walls.
Blood pressure isn’t just a number. Chronically elevated blood pressure (hypertension) significantly increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, congestive heart failure, erectile dysfunction, eye disease (retinopathy), and kidney disease. Heart disease and stroke are two of the top five causes of death in the US (heart disease is #1), and hypertension is such a big contributor to both that the CDC claims hypertension was at least partially responsible for 410,000 deaths in the US in 2014.
Your doctor can help you measure and track your blood pressure to confirm whether it’s too high. You may need to start taking medications if your blood pressure doesn’t improve after one month of following a healthy lifestyle, especially if you’re already at high risk for heart disease. If you’re at lower risk, your doctor may want to follow up in three to six months after you’ve adopted more healthy habits.
By the Numbers. High Blood Pressure: 1 in 3 Adults has high blood pressure; 1 in 3 Adults with high blood pressure does not get treatment; 1 in 2 Adults with high blood pressure does not have it under control. High Cholesterol: 1 in 3 Adults has high cholesterol; 1 in 2 Adults with high cholesterol does not get treatment; 2 in 3 Adults who have high cholesterol do not have it under control.
Vegetables give you fiber, vitamins, and minerals. They don't have a lot of calories or fat -- a good recipe for controlling blood pressure. Have four to five servings of vegetables a day. That’s 1/2 cup of cooked or raw vegetables, 1 cup of raw leafy vegetables, or 1/2 cup of vegetable juice for each serving. Iffy about veggies? Start by adding a salad at lunch and dinner.
Most doctors do not make a final diagnosis of high blood pressure until they measure your blood pressure several times (at least 2 blood pressure readings on 3 different days). Some doctors ask their patients to wear a portable machine that measures their blood pressure over the course of several days. This machine may help the doctor find out whether a patient has true high blood pressure or what is known as “white-coat hypertension.” White-coat hypertension is a condition in which a patient’s blood pressure rises during a visit to a doctor when anxiety and stress probably play a role.
It can be difficult to make many diet changes at once, especially if you have been diagnosed with two medical conditions. Try making one healthy change a week for four weeks. Once you have mastered these improvements, reward yourself with something you enjoy, like a trip to the spa or to the movies. The second month, focus on maintaining these healthy habits and adding healthy variety to your meals. When you feel ready, try a fifth and sixth healthy change, and don't forget to reward yourself for the positive changes that you have made.
Diabetes can upset the balance between HDL and LDL cholesterol levels. People with diabetes tend to have LDL particles that stick to arteries and damage blood vessel walls more easily. Glucose (a type of sugar) attaches to lipoproteins (a cholesterol-protein package that enables cholesterol to travel through blood). Sugarcoated LDL remains in the bloodstream longer and may lead to the formation of plaque. People with diabetes tend to have low HDL and high triglyceride (another kind of blood fat) levels. Both of these boost the risk of heart and artery disease.
Because high blood pressure doesn’t cause symptoms, once you’ve been diagnosed with it, it’s critical to measure your blood pressure regularly. This is true even if you’re taking blood pressure medication. And whether you’ve got high or low blood pressure, tracking your systolic and diastolic numbers is a great way to gauge how well lifestyle changes or medications are working.
She'll inflate the cuff to a pressure higher than your systolic blood pressure, and it will tighten around your arm. Then she'll release it. As the cuff deflates, the first sound she hears through the stethoscope is the systolic blood pressure. It sounds like a whooshing noise. The point where this noise goes away marks the diastolic blood pressure.
Half of American adults have this life-threatening condition, yet many are unaware or simply don’t take it seriously. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Hypertension is manageable and even preventable, but you have to know your risk factors and get your blood pressure checked (regularly!) to see if you’re at risk. Let’s take a closer look at what blood pressure actually is, how hypertension works, and how you can prevent the effects of high blood pressure to stave off heart disease.
Elevated blood pressures in the medical setting may not necessarily reflect the individuals real status. "White coat hypertension" describes a patient whose blood pressure is elevated because of the stress of the visit to the doctor or other healthcare professional, and the worry that their blood pressure might be elevated. Repeated blood pressure checks at the doctor's office or the use of a home blood pressure monitoring device may be used to confirm that you have high blood pressure.
Blood pressure monitors for use at home can be bought at drug stores, department stores, and other places. Again, these monitors may not always give you a correct reading. You should always compare your machine’s reading with a reading from your doctor’s machine to make sure they are the same. Remember that any measurement above normal should prompt a visit to the doctor, who can then talk with you about the best course of action.
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.