High blood pressure can cause problems for a mother and her baby. High blood pressure can harm a mother’s kidneys and other organs and can cause early birth and low birth weight. If you are thinking about having a baby and have high blood pressure, talk with your doctors so you can take steps to lower or control your high blood pressure before and during the pregnancy.
Instead of an arbitrary goal to “lose weight,” talk with your doctor about a healthy weight for you. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a weight loss goal of one to two pounds a week. That means starting off eating 500 calories less per day than what you normally eat. Then decide on what physical activity you can start in order to reach that goal. If exercising five nights a week is too hard to work into your schedule, aim for one more night than what you’re doing right now. When that fits comfortably into your schedule, add another night.
All of these steps and techniques are things you should ask your doctor about as part of your personalized health plan. Preventative care from an experienced physician is the best way to fend off many health problems, and hypertension is no exception. Find a skilled St. Joseph Health primary care physician or heart specialist using our online provider directory. Download our health numbers report card to help you track your blood pressure and other common markers that measure heart health.
Electrocardiogram (ECG): This tests the heart's electrical activity. This test is more commonly used for patients at high risk of heart problems, such as hypertension and elevated cholesterol levels. The initial ECG is called a baseline. Subsequent ECGs may be compared with the baseline to reveal changes which may point to coronary artery disease or thickening of the heart wall.

Up to 40% of patients taking clonidine (Catapres) will experience dry mouth and about a third will have drowsiness, headache, and sleepiness. Other common side effects include constipation, dizziness, and local skin reactions with use of the Catapres-TTS skin patch. Reserpine use is linked with possible side effects including nightmares, stuffy nose, depression, and an inability to fall asleep. Diarrhea and heartburn are also possible. Guanadrel and guanethidine can cause diarrhea and other gastrointestinal issues – as well as dizziness and drowsiness.

Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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.
Blood pressure guidelines show the lower the blood pressure numbers the better. As long as no symptoms of trouble are present there is no one number that doctors consider being too low. The guidelines call for an individualized, risk-based approach to managing hypertension, as well as a personal consultation with a health care provider. While the new guidelines mean we are more aggressive about blood pressure control, lifestyle changes are always a part of the treatment plan. A treatment plan is agreed to by patient and provider, and includes ongoing communication to see how the patient is feeling and how their medications are working.
Exercise every day. Moderate exercise can lower your risk of high blood pressure. Set some goals so you can exercise safely and work your way up to exercising at least 30 minutes a day most days of the week. Check with your doctor before starting an exercise plan if you have any health problems that are not being treated. You can find more information about exercise and physical activity at Go4Life.

Finding out what genetic patterns contribute to high blood pressure risk. NHLBI-funded researchers identified dozens of new genetic variations that affect blood pressure. Scientists discovered the new genetic regions—and confirmed the role of many previously known ones by looking specifically at cigarette smoking behavior, one of many lifestyle factors that impact blood pressure. The analysis of the large samples was possible through the work of researchers in the Gene-Lifestyle Interactions Working Group of the Cohorts for Heart and Aging Research in Genomic Epidemiology (CHARGE) Consortium.

Medications used to lower blood pressure include diuretics (e.g., hydrochlorothiazide*), beta-blockers (e.g., atenolol, metoprolol), ACE inhibitors (e.g., ramipril, enalapril, lisinopril), calcium channel blockers (e.g., nifedipine, amlodipine), angiotensin II receptor blockers (e.g., losartan, valsartan), and direct renin inhibitors (e.g., aliskiren).
In general, lower doses of blood pressure medicine are as effective as higher doses and cause fewer side effects. So, when trying to find effective single-drug therapy, doctors usually begin with a low dose. They may decide to increase the dose a bit if the initial dose is ineffective—but it is rarely useful to “push” the dose of a single-drug therapy into the higher dosage ranges. Instead, if a drug fails to work at a relatively low dose, it is time to switch to a low dose of a different drug.
Dietary changes: The health care provider might recommend a diet that includes more vegetables (especially leafy green vegetables), fruits, low-fat dairy products, and fiber-rich foods, and fewer carbohydrates, fats, processed foods, and sugary drinks. He or she also might recommend preparing low-sodium dishes and not adding salt to foods. Watch out for foods with lots of hidden salt (like bread, sandwiches, pizza, and many restaurant and fast-food options).
Instead of reaching for drugs, we should continue to find the most effective lifestyle interventions to help lower blood pressure and reduce cardiovascular risk without a laundry list of side effects. Unless, of course, you consider losing weight, having more energy, and feeling great as side effects — those are the type of side effects (from low-carb eating) that we all can embrace!
1. Concentrate on foods that lower blood pressure. Sugary, processed foods contain salt, sugar, damaged fats, and food sensitivities like gluten that contribute to or exacerbate high blood pressure. Shifting to a whole, unprocessed foods diet can dramatically impact your blood pressure. Many whole, unprocessed foods are rich in potassium, a mineral that supports healthy blood pressure. Some research shows that too much sodium and low amounts of potassium – can contribute to high blood pressure. Research shows people with high blood pressure can benefit from increased potassium in foods including avocado, spinach, wild-caught salmon, and sweet potatoes.
Is there anything garlic can’t do? The vegetable is praised in natural medicine and is linked to lowering cholesterol and high blood pressure, too, according to Healthline. This natural antibiotic has the active ingredient allicin to thank for its health benefits. Plus, more research shows eating garlic alters how blood vessels dilate, resulting in blood pressure changes as well.
Facial flushing: Facial flushing occurs when blood vessels in the face dilate. It can occur unpredictably or in response to certain triggers such as sun exposure, cold weather, spicy foods, wind, hot drinks and skin-care products. Facial flushing can also occur with emotional stress, exposure to heat or hot water, alcohol consumption and exercise — all of which can raise blood pressure temporarily. While facial flushing may occur while your blood pressure is higher than usual, high blood pressure is not the cause of facial flushing.  

Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos (HCHS/SOL). The NHLBI supports the HCHS/SOL, which is the most comprehensive long-term study of health and disease in Hispanics and Latinos living in the United States. Study data will pave the way for future research into possible causes of health disparities among Hispanic and Latino communities. Visit Hispanic Community Health Study/Study of Latinos for more information.


Recent updates to guidelines from the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology changed the definition of high blood pressure or hypertension for most people. High blood pressure is now generally defined as 130 or higher for the first number, or 80 or higher for the second number (previously it was 140/90). However, there are important considerations for older adults in deciding whether to start treatment for high blood pressure, including other health conditions and overall fitness. If your blood pressure is above 130/80, your doctor will evaluate your health to determine what treatment is needed to balance risks and benefits in your particular situation.

Many expert groups recommend a slightly higher target of 150/90 mmHg for those over somewhere between 60 and 80 years of age.[99][100][101][105] The JNC-8 and American College of Physicians recommend the target of 150/90 mmHg for those over 60 years of age,[13][106] but some experts within these groups disagree with this recommendation.[107] Some expert groups have also recommended slightly lower targets in those with diabetes[99] or chronic kidney disease with protein loss in the urine,[108] but others recommend the same target as for the general population.[13][103] The issue of what is the best target and whether targets should differ for high risk individuals is unresolved,[109] although some experts propose more intensive blood pressure lowering than advocated in some guidelines.[110]
Some people may ask why doctors are lowering the threshold for high blood pressure, when it was already difficult for many patients to achieve the previous blood pressure targets of below 140 mm Hg/90 mm Hg, said Dr. Pamela B. Morris, a preventive cardiologist and chairwoman of the ACC's Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease Leadership Council. However, Morris said that the guidelines were changed because "we now have more precise estimates of the risk of [high] blood pressures," and these new guidelines really communicate that risk to patients. So, just because it's going to be difficult for people to achieve, "I don't think it's a reason not to communicate the risk to patients, and to empower them to make appropriate lifestyle modifications," Morris told Live Science.
Hypertension (HTN or HT), also known as high blood pressure (HBP), is a long-term medical condition in which the blood pressure in the arteries is persistently elevated.[10] High blood pressure typically does not cause symptoms.[1] Long-term high blood pressure, however, is a major risk factor for coronary artery disease, stroke, heart failure, atrial fibrillation, peripheral vascular disease, vision loss, chronic kidney disease, and dementia.[2][3][4][11]

A cold glass of milk offers a solid serving of both calcium and vitamin D, nutrients that work as a team to help lower blood pressure by 3 to 10 percent, according to Bauer’s website. Those numbers may not sound impressive, but they could translate to a 15 percent reduction in heart disease risk, she adds. Other research suggests that people with low levels of calcium are at greater risk of high blood pressure. Don’t miss these 18 other natural remedies for high blood pressure.
When blood pressure is measured, there are two numbers for each reading: for example, "120 over 80" is written as 120/80. This is because each heartbeat sends a pressure wave through the bloodstream. The higher number (systolic blood pressure) is the peak of the wave, when your heart contracts (the loud "thump" when you listen to your heartbeat). The lower number (diastolic blood pressure) is the lower "dip" or trough of the wave, when your heart relaxes.
Important complications of uncontrolled or poorly treated high blood pressure are due to chronic damage that occurs to different organs in the body and include heart attack, congestive heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, peripheral artery disease, and aneurysms (weakening of the walls of an artery, leading to a sac formation or ballooning of the artery wall). Aneurysms can be found in the brain, along the route of the aorta (the large artery that leaves the heart), and other arteries in the abdomen and extremities.

Obesity: As body weight increases, the blood pressure rises. Obesity is defined as having a body mass index (BMI) greater than 30 kg/m. A BMI of 25-30 kg/m is considered overweight (BMI=weight in pounds x 703/ height in inches). Being overweight increases the risk of high blood pressure. Healthcare professionals recommend that all individuals who are obese and have high blood pressure lose weight until they are within 15% of their healthy body weight.


There are many popular medical myths about high blood pressure. For example, many physicians believe that high blood pressure is an “inevitable consequence of aging;” that the “only viable treatment option for high blood pressure patients is medication”; that high blood pressure patients must take their medications “for the rest of their lives”; and, worst of all, that high blood pressure medications are “safe and effective.”
If you’re not a fan of skim milk, yogurt could be a great alternative to fulfill your dairy needs and help fight/lower high blood pressure. According to the American Heart Association, women who ate five or more servings of yogurt a week experienced a 20 percent reduction in their risk for developing high blood pressure. Dairy also contains calcium which is essential for healthy blood pressure since the mineral helps blood vessels tighten and relax when necessary, per Harvard Medical School.
The drug of choice for hypertensive, pregnant women is one of the oldest high blood pressure medications on the market. Methyldopa, which works to lower blood pressure through the central nervous system, has the lowest risk of harming the mother and developing fetus. Other possible safe options include labetalol, beta blockers, and diuretics. Two classes of drugs which should never be used during pregnancy include the ACE inhibitors and the angiotensin II receptor blockers.
Hypertension occurs in around 0.2 to 3% of newborns; however, blood pressure is not measured routinely in healthy newborns.[33] Hypertension is more common in high risk newborns. A variety of factors, such as gestational age, postconceptional age and birth weight needs to be taken into account when deciding if a blood pressure is normal in a newborn.[33]
Eat berries. Berries have many health benefits, and one of them is improving blood pressure and reducing other heart disease risks. Berries, like strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and blueberries, have lots of polyphenols, which are great for your heart. They’re also really tasty. So, load up on the berries for better blood pressure. If you don’t like eating them all the time, try adding them to a smoothie made with low-fat or fat-free yogurt without added sugar. Throw in some ice, banana, and low-fat milk for a heart-healthy treat.
Blood pressure is measure in millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and recorded as two numbers, systolic and diastolic. Systolic is the top number (also the higher one), which measure the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats, so when its muscles contract. Diastolic the bottom number (also the lower one), which measures the pressure in the arteries between heart beats, so when the muscles relax and refill with blood.

Stress reduction techniques such as biofeedback or transcendental meditation may be considered as an add-on to other treatments to reduce hypertension, but do not have evidence for preventing cardiovascular disease on their own.[125][126][127] Self-monitoring and appointment reminders might support the use of other strategies to improve blood pressure control, but need further evaluation.[128]


Quitting smoking. Visit Smoking and Your Heart and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute’s Your Guide to a Healthy Heart [PDF – 2MB]. Although these resources focus on heart health, they include basic information about how to quit smoking. For free help and support to quit smoking, you can call the National Cancer Institute’s Smoking Quitline at 1-877-44U-QUIT (1-877-448-7848).

If your blood pressure remains high for a long period of time, you run the risk of damaging your blood vessels. Your stroke risk rises significantly, too. And because your heart is working harder to push blood through your system, that very valuable muscle can become overworked and grow thicker. An enlarged heart causes further complications, including heart failure. Medications and special implantable pumps can help boost heart function. But if you can manage your blood pressure before it gets too high and puts your heart at risk, you may be able to avoid a lot of complications down the road.
Some high blood pressure medications initially cause drowsiness, dizziness, and lightheadedness. Some even cause fainting on the first dose. The body usually adjusts to the effects of these medications and the side effects disappear. Consuming alcohol during the early phase of antihypertensive treatment could be risky because alcohol can also cause dizziness, drowsiness, and lightheadedness.
This study will assess whether minocycline, an antibiotic with anti-inflammatory effects, can improve blood pressure control in patients who do not respond to medicines in combination with lifestyle changes, such as physical activity, weight loss, and healthy eating patterns. To participate you must be at least 18 years old and have high blood pressure that does not respond to treatment with three different high blood pressure medicines even when used at the maximum doses. Please note that this study is in Gainesville, Florida.
James, P.A., Oparil, S., Carter, B.L., Cushman, W.C., Dennison-Himmelfarb, C., Handler, J., & Ortiz, E. (2013, December 18). 2014 evidence-based guideline for the management of high blood pressure in adults: Report from the panel members appointed to the eighth joint national committee. Journal of the American Medical Association. Retrieved from http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/1791497
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