What is High Blood Pressure?

What is High Blood Pressure? (Hypertension)

Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls. The more forcefully that blood pumps, the more the arteries stretch to allow blood to easily flow. Increased force or stretch equates to high blood pressure. High blood pressure or hypertension (HTN), is a widely misunderstood medical condition. Some people think that those with HTN are tense, nervous or hyperactive, but HTN has nothing to do with personality traits. The truth is, you can be a calm, relaxed person and still have hypertension. Many patients have hypertension and don’t even know it!

Blood pressure is written as two numbers.

The top, systolic number is the pressure when the heart beats.

The bottom, diastolic number is the pressure when the heart rests.

Normal blood pressure is below 120/80 mm Hg.

High blood pressure is a pressure of 140 systolic or higher and/or 90 diastolic or higher that stays high over time.

Hypertension cannot be cured, but it can be managed. High blood pressure often has no signs or symptoms. That’s why it is so dangerous. Over time, if the force of the blood flow is often high, the tissue that makes up the walls of arteries gets stretched beyond its healthy limit. This creates problems in several ways. High blood pressure causes overstretching of the arterial walls. This creates weak places in the blood vessels, making them
more prone to rupture causing strokes or aneurysms. Tiny scars can form and plaque (arteriosclerosis) can build up within the arterial walls. As this happens, pressure is increased on the rest of the system, forcing the heart to work harder to deliver blood to your body.

By keeping your blood pressure in the healthy range, you reduce your risk of the walls of your blood vessels walls becoming overstretched and injured. You may not fee that anything is wrong, but high blood pressure can permanently damage your heart, brain, eyes and kidneys before you feel anything.

Why is longstanding hypertension a concern?

Over time, this increased work can result in damage to the heart itself. The muscles and valves in the heart can become damaged and heart failure can result.

Who is at higher risk?

  • Individuals with close relatives who have HTN
  • People over age 35 or those who are African Americans
  • Overweight, physically inactive individuals
  • Consumption of too much salt or alcohol
  • Individuals with diabetes, gout or kidney disease
  •  Pregnant women or those who take birth control pills

What can I do about it?

  • Lose weight if you’re overweight and eat healthy meals low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, salt (sodium) and added sugars.
  • Take medicine the way your doctor tells you
  • Limit alcohol to one drink per day for women or two drinks a day formen.
  • Be more physically active. Aim for at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity, or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity,aerobic exercise each week

Follow up with your cardiologist and keep your scheduled appointments!

For additional resources or to see dietary meal planning guides for ways to lower your blood pressure check out: http://www.heart.org
Educational information provided by The American Heart Association found at http://www.heart.org