Your total blood pressure reading is determined by measuring your systolic and diastolic blood pressures. Systolic blood pressure, the top number, measures the force your heart exerts on the walls of your arteries each time it beats. Diastolic blood pressure, the bottom number, measures the force your heart exerts on the walls of your arteries in between beats.
Americans eat far too much dietary sodium, up to three times the recommended total amount, which is 1,500 milligrams (mg) daily for individuals with high blood pressure, says Dr. Fisher. It doesn't take much sodium to reach that 1,500-mg daily cap — just 3/4 of a teaspoon of salt. There's half of that amount of sodium in one Egg McMuffin breakfast sandwich. Weed out high-sodium foods by reading labels carefully. "It is very difficult to lower dietary sodium without reading labels, unless you prepare all of your own food," says Dr. Fisher. Beware in particular of what the American Heart Association has dubbed the "salty six," common foods where high amounts of sodium may be lurking:
This drug prevents calcium from entering the smooth muscle cells of the heart and arteries. When calcium enters these cells, it causes a stronger and harder contraction, so by decreasing the calcium, the hearts' contraction is not as forceful. Calcium channel blockers relax and open up narrowed blood vessels, reduce heart rate and lower blood pressure.
Magnesium: Magnesium, which is present in nuts, seeds, avocado, and green leafy vegetables, has also been proposed as a natural way to reduce blood pressure. Supplements are also available in pill form. Studies show that higher levels of magnesium are associated with lower blood pressure, but it is still not completely clear whether there is a cause-and-effect relationship.
Hydralazine has been used for the treatment of high blood pressure since the 1950's. It is believed that hydralazine reduces blood pressure, however there are concerns due to the potential for this drug to cause adverse effects. The aim of this review was to determine the extent to which hydralazine reduces blood pressure, the nature of hydralazines adverse effect profile, and to determine the clinical impact of its use for hypertension. Unfortunately, the search revealed no randomized controlled trials which compared hydralazine to placebo as monotherapy for primary hypertension, therefore we are unable to make firm conclusions regarding its effects on blood pressure, adverse effects, or clinical outcomes. Some of the adverse effects related to hydralazine and that have been reported in the literature include reflex tachycardia, hemolytic anemia, vasculitis, glomerulonephritis, and a lupus-like syndrome.
If your blood pressure readings are consistently high, you and your doctor will probably discuss treatment strategies. Treatment for high blood pressure often begins with lifestyle changes such as a weight loss and exercise program as well as a low sodium diet. In fact, the AHA recommends adopting these strategies as a means of preventing the development of high blood pressure and heart disease. If these strategies are not successful in lowering your blood pressure, medications may be recommended.
Many of us have had our blood pressure measured at the doctor but don’t really understand why it’s important. Find out why (and how) your doctor measures your blood pressure, what’s normal and what’s not, and what to do if you have high blood pressure.How is blood pressure measured?Blood pressure is measured using an instrument called a sphygmomanometer. It consists of an inflatable cuff, an inflating bulb, and a gauge to show the blood pressure.The cuff is wrapped around the upper arm, and inflated to a pressure which temporarily stops the blood from flowing through the brachial artery – the main blood vessel in your arm. At this point, the doctor will not be able to feel a pulse in the arm. The cuff pressure is then raised slightly above this point, and then slowly lowered.As the pressure is lowered, your doctor will listen through a stethoscope for the sound of blood starting to pulse through the brachial artery again. The pressure reading on the sphygmomanometer when the sound of blood is first heard pulsing through the artery is known as the systolic pressure. As the doctor continues to lower the pressure in the cuff, the sounds will disappear. Usually, the point at which the sounds disappear is known as the diastolic pressure.The systolic reading (the first number of the 2) indicates the pressure of blood within your arteries during a contraction of the left ventricle of the heart. The diastolic reading (the second number) indicates the pressure within the arteries when the heart is at rest. Blood pressure is measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg), for example 120/80 mmHg (known as 120 over 80).What is normal blood pressure?According to the Heart Foundation of Australia, as a general guide:blood pressure below 120/80 mmHg can be classified as 'optimal';blood pressure between 120/80 and 129/84 mmHg is 'normal'; andblood pressure between 130/85 and 139/89 mmHg is classified as 'high-normal'.A person is defined by the Heart Foundation as having high blood pressure (hypertension) if they:have a systolic pressure greater than or equal to 140 mmHg; and/ora diastolic pressure greater than or equal to 90 mmHg.High blood pressure is further classified as mild, moderate or severe as the pressure increases above this level.Low blood pressure, or hypotension, is not as easy to define as it is usually relative to a person’s normal blood pressure reading, and varies between different people. It generally refers to a blood pressure below an average of about 90/60 mmHg.Getting an accurate readingAccording to the Heart Foundation, the diagnosis of high blood pressure should be based on multiple blood pressure measurements taken on separate occasions.It is recommended that you do not smoke or drink caffeine-containing drinks for 2 hours before having your blood pressure monitored, as this can cause an increase in your readings.Self-monitoring of blood pressure in your own environment (home blood pressure monitoring) or ambulatory monitoring of blood pressure is also used to help diagnose high blood pressure.For ambulatory blood pressure monitoring, you wear a portable automatic blood pressure machine for 24 hours while going about your usual daily routine. The portable monitor will measure your blood pressure multiple times during the 24 hours. Your doctor will ask you to record your activities over the 24 hours, plus any symptoms you experience (and when they occur). Variations in blood pressure are normal and may occur depending on where and when the blood pressure is taken.Some people who have raised blood pressure readings taken at the doctor’s surgery actually have acceptable levels outside the surgery, when under normal stress levels. This is known as ‘white-coat’ hypertension.There are also people with ‘reverse white-coat’ hypertension (also known as masked hypertension), who have normal blood pressure when measured in the clinic but high ambulatory blood pressure readings (those recorded during normal daily activities).Keeping on targetYour target blood pressure may vary according to whether you have other conditions that can increase your risk of cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) disease or conditions that have been caused by high blood pressure.Raised blood pressure is a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and the higher your blood pressure, the greater your chance of having heart disease or stroke. For this reason it is important that you have your blood pressure monitored regularly, and that you always take any high blood pressure treatments that have been recommended, including medicines that have been prescribed.Hypertension can also be controlled to a large extent by lifestyle measures such as:losing excess weight;undertaking regular physical activity;quitting smoking; andchanging your diet (reducing your alcohol and salt intake, and following a healthy eating plan).These steps can help to lower your blood pressure and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Last Reviewed: 8 February 2017
Loading up on potassium-rich fruits and vegetables is an important part of any blood pressure-lowering program, says Linda Van Horn, PhD, RD, a professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Potassium encourages the kidneys to excrete more sodium through urination, and that sodium excretion can help lower blood pressure.
The chart below provides a general overview of blood pressure ranges updated to match the new American Heart Association guidelines. Take your blood pressure and identify your systolic & diastolic readings to compare ranges on the chart, OR enter your results in the blood pressure calculator to learn more about causes, symptoms, and treatment for your blood pressure readings
Studies even show that blood pressure measurements outside a doctor’s office are at least as accurate as those in the office (provided the equipment works well). If your results are high, take another reading. Try, try again. If they’re still high, see your healthcare provider and get checked out. Your doctor may order blood and urine tests or an EKG to diagnose other causes for your hypertension.
"The implications and potential benefits of such healthier lifestyles could be great, particularly since about 22% of the adult population falls into the prehypertensive category," says Chobanian, who is also dean of the Boston University School of Medicine. "In fact, the blood pressure effects of weight reduction or adoption of the DASH eating plan can be comparable to those achieved with any single blood pressure medication."
Beta blockers decrease the effect of adrenaline on the cardiovascular system, slow the heart rate, and reduce stress on the heart and the arteries. Side effects include worsening shortness of breath if you have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or asthma; sexual dysfunction; fatigue; depression; and worsening of symptoms if you have peripheral artery disease. Beta-blocker examples include:
What you need to know about beta-blockers Beta-blockers are drugs that are used to slow down a person's heart rate. Doctors may prescribe them for a range of reasons, including angina and high blood pressure. There are many types and brands of beta-blockers, some of which affect other parts of the body. Learn about side effects, cautions, and interactions. Read now
Unfortunately, this seems like a common scenario — medical guidelines recommend more aggressive medication use for minimal potential benefit despite potential harm. A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), suggests the blood pressure guidelines go too far for low risk individuals, and the risk of harm outweighs the potential benefits.