As mentioned earlier, blood pressure increases with age, beginning from infancy to older adulthood. Since most healthy babies and children are typically not at risk for blood pressure problems, most doctors do not check their blood pressure routinely. But, the normal BP range for all adults, regardless of their age, is considered to be lesser than 120/80.
The JAMA study was an extensive chart review of over 38,000 patients at low risk for heart disease who had stage two hypertension (blood pressure between 149/90 and 159/99) and were treated with blood pressure medications. Over an average follow-up time of almost six years, they found no reduction in the risk of cardiovascular disease events or risk of death with medication use. They did, however, find an increased risk for low blood pressure, fainting, and acute kidney injury among those treated with medications.
Primary (or essential) hypertension is when the cause is unknown. The majority of hypertension cases are primary. When there is an underlying problem such as kidney disease or hormonal disorders that can cause hypertension, it is called secondary hypertension. When it is possible to correct the underlying cause, high blood pressure usually improves and may even return to normal.
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:
‘White coat syndrome’ refers to elevated blood pressure due to nervousness or anxiety when clients have their blood pressure taken by a healthcare provider. This occurs in approximately 20% of clients. Key message: have the client take their blood pressure at home with an automatic home blood pressure cuff and compare the findings. Alternatively, you can ask the client to sit quietly and leave the room while an automatic cuff takes a client’s blood pressure. The automatic cuff can be programmed to take three measurements and the blood pressure documented is an average of the three readings.
Some high blood pressure medications can, in fact, lead to weight gain. Common offenders include older beta blockers such as propranolol (Inderal) and atenolol (Tenormin). There could be several reasons for this -- including the fact that the medications can make patients feel tired and thus less likely to exercise. Minoxidil tablets (Loniten) -- used only when other antihypertensive medications have failed -- can also cause weight gain. Weight gain is also listed as a common side effect of doxazosin (Cardura). Diuretics are more likely to cause weight loss.
Some examples of aerobic exercise you may try to lower blood pressure include walking, jogging, cycling, swimming or dancing. You can also try high-intensity interval training, which involves alternating short bursts of intense activity with subsequent recovery periods of lighter activity. Strength training also can help reduce blood pressure. Aim to include strength training exercises at least two days a week. Talk to your doctor about developing an exercise program.
It is important to go to your regular check-ups with your doctor. Hypertension is a common condition and, if caught, can be treated with medication to prevent complications. However, if you experience any of the symptoms of hypertension, such as frequent headaches, recurrent dizziness, nosebleeds, shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, don't wait—speak to your doctor immediately.
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.
Eat potassium- and magnesium-rich foods. Potassium can help regulate your heart rate and can reduce the effect that sodium has on your blood pressure. Foods like bananas, melons, oranges, apricots, avocados, dairy, leafy green vegetables, tomatoes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tuna, salmon, beans, nuts, and seeds have lots of potassium. Magnesium is thought to help blood vessels relax, making it easier for blood to pass through. Foods rich in magnesium include vegetables, dairy, chicken, legumes, and whole grains. It’s better to get vitamins and minerals from food, and a heart-healthy diet like the one we described above is a good way to ensure you get plenty of nutrients. However, you may want to talk to your doctor about whether taking certain supplements might help your blood pressure.
From long hours at the office to those little annoyances like traffic jams, day-to-day life provides us with a seemingly endless supply of little stresses. While those itty-bitty amounts of stress may seem like no big deal at first, over time, they can send your blood pressure skyrocketing, taking your health along for the ride. That’s why you need to stock up on foods that lower blood pressure.
While you shouldn't shrug off the change, there's also no need to panic. "Obviously, nothing happened overnight inside a woman's body or to her health with the release of the guidelines," says Dr. Naomi Fisher, director of hypertension service and hypertension innovation at the Brigham and Women's Hospital Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes, and Hypertension, and associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Although the guidelines do not change the traditional definition of high blood pressure, they do call for more aggressive treatment of the condition through the use of a combination of blood-pressure lowering medications. In fact, they say that most people with high blood pressure will require two or more drugs to achieve a blood pressure goal of less than 140/90. The blood pressure goal in people with diabetes or kidney disease should be less than 130/80.
“Beware of the American Heart Association’s (AHA) 'Salty Six' — six popular foods that can add high levels of sodium to your diet,” says Rachel Johnson, PhD, a professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont in Burlington and the former chair of the AHA’s nutrition committee. The Salty Six include breads and rolls, cold cuts and cured meats, sandwiches, pizza, soup, and chicken.
Imagine a garden hose hooked up to a spigot. When the hose is flexible and there are no kinks in it, you can turn on the water full blast and it will flow easily through the hose. But if there’s a kink in the hose, the water doesn’t flow as well beyond the kink. And the pressure inside the hose builds up behind the kink. Or imagine there is gunk inside the hose blocking the path of the water. Your arteries are a lot like that garden hose.
Beta blockers are medications that block norepinephrine and epinephrine (adrenaline) from binding to both beta 1 and beta 2 receptors on organs and muscles, including the muscles surrounding blood vessels that cause the blood vessels to narrow and the heart to beat. By blocking the effect of norepinephrine and epinephrine, beta blockers reduce blood pressure by dilating blood vessels and reducing heart rate. They also may constrict air passages because stimulation of beta receptors in the lung cause the muscles that surround the air passages to contract.
Dairy or soy—it’s your choice. Replacing some of the refined carbohydrates in your diet with foods high in soy or milk protein (like tofu or low-fat dairy) can bring down systolic blood pressure if you have hypertension or prehypertension, findings suggest. "Some patients get inflammation from refined carbohydrates, which will increase blood pressure," says Matthew J. Budoff, MD, FACC, Professor of Medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine and Director of Cardiac CT at the Division of Cardiology at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center.
If your blood pressure is always on the low side and you do not have any of the above symptoms, there is usually no cause for concern. Similarly, if you have a single at-home blood pressure reading that is abnormally low without any symptoms, you probably do not need to see your doctor. It is normal for your blood pressure to rise and fall over time, and your body is usually able to get your blood pressure back to normal.
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