The guidelines also redefined the various categories of hypertension. It eliminated the category of prehypertension, which had been defined as systolic blood pressure of 120 to 139 mm Hg or diastolic pressure (the lower number in a reading) of 80 to 89 mm Hg. Instead, people with those readings are now categorized as having either elevated pressure (120 to 129 systolic and less than 80 diastolic) or Stage 1 hypertension (130 to 139 systolic or 80 to 89 diastolic).
Blood pressure refers to the force exerted by circulating blood on the walls of blood vessels and constitutes one of the principal vital signs. The pressure of the circulating blood decreases as blood moves through arteries, arterioles, capillaries, and veins; the term blood pressure generally refers to arterial pressure, i.e., the pressure in the larger arteries, arteries being the blood vessels which take blood away from the heart.
Consider once again the analogy of the garden hose. If you turn on the water “harder,” there is more pressure in the hose. Excessive salt in the diet can result in excessive fluid volume in the blood, which results in elevated blood pressure. This cause, too, is reversible, as a plant-based diet of whole, natural foods, devoid of added salt, is naturally low in sodium chloride.
The kidneys produce renin when they detect low blood pressure. Renin stimulates the production of angiotensin I, a protein which is converted to angiotensin II by angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) in the lungs. Angiotensin II is a powerful constrictor of blood vessels, and constricting blood vessels increases blood pressure. Angiotensin II also causes the secretion of an additional blood pressure elevating hormone in the adrenal glands called aldosterone, which helps the body retain sodium. Aliskiren blocks the effects of renin and angiotensin so that blood pressure does not increase.
Hypertension is often considered a men’s health problem, but that’s a myth. Men and women in their 40s, 50s, and 60s have a similar level of risk for developing high blood pressure. But after the onset of menopause, women actually face higher risks than men of developing high blood pressure. Prior to age 45, men are slightly more likely to develop high blood pressure, but certain female health issues can change these odds.
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