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Not Smoking While smoking is a proven risk factor for heart problems like heart attack and stroke, researchers are still trying to understand its connection to high blood pressure. Both smoking and secondhand exposure to tobacco smoke increases the risk of plaque inside the arteries, a condition known as atherosclerosis, which high blood pressure accelerates.
Healthcare professionals use a stethoscope and a manual sphygmomanometer to measure your blood pressure. Typically they take the reading above your elbow. The sphygmomanometer has a bladder, cuff, bulb, and a gauge. When the bulb is pumped it inflates the bladder inside the cuff, which is wrapped around your arm. This inflation will stop the blood flow in your arteries. The stethoscope is used to listen for sound of the heartbeat, and no sound indicates that there is no flow. As the pressure is released from the bladder, you will hear the sound of the blood flowing again. That point becomes systolic reading. The diastolic reading is when you hear no sound again, which means that the blood flow is back to normal.
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.
Hypertension with certain specific additional signs and symptoms may suggest secondary hypertension, i.e. hypertension due to an identifiable cause. For example, Cushing's syndrome frequently causes truncal obesity, glucose intolerance, moon face, a hump of fat behind the neck/shoulder (referred to as a buffalo hump), and purple abdominal stretch marks. Hyperthyroidism frequently causes weight loss with increased appetite, fast heart rate, bulging eyes, and tremor. Renal artery stenosis (RAS) may be associated with a localized abdominal bruit to the left or right of the midline (unilateral RAS), or in both locations (bilateral RAS). Coarctation of the aorta frequently causes a decreased blood pressure in the lower extremities relative to the arms, or delayed or absent femoral arterial pulses. Pheochromocytoma may cause abrupt ("paroxysmal") episodes of hypertension accompanied by headache, palpitations, pale appearance, and excessive sweating.
In November, the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology issued new guidelines that change how high blood pressure, or hypertension, is diagnosed. Previously, it wasn’t until an adult’s blood pressure reached 140 mmHg or higher systolic (the top, or first, number) or 90 mmHg diastolic (the bottom, or second, number) or higher that high blood pressure was diagnosed. According to the new parameters, high blood pressure should be treated at 130/80 rather than 140/90, as that is the point when our risk for heart attack, stroke, and other consequences for hypertension almost doubles.
Often, hypertension can improve with lifestyle changes. In some cases, high blood pressure can go down to normal levels with only lifestyle modifications, particularly if you have stage 1 hypertension (systolic blood pressure of 130 mmHg to 159 mmHg, or diastolic blood pressure 80 mmHg to 99 mmHg), or if you have elevated blood pressure (systolic blood of 120 mmHg to 129 mmHg and diastolic less than 80 mmHg).