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
If your blood pressure is above the normal range for up to 5 readings (taken at different visits), your doctor will likely diagnose you with high blood pressure. Sometimes the doctor may diagnose you after a fewer number of readings, depending on how high above normal your blood pressure is and if you have other medical conditions. Blood pressure tends to be at its highest during exercise, physical work, or stress, and lowest during sleep. Everyone can have a temporary increase in blood pressure at one time or another, which is why it's important to take multiple readings.
As you get older, high blood pressure, especially isolated systolic hypertension, is more common and can increase your risk of serious health problems. Treatment, especially if you have other medical conditions, requires ongoing evaluation and discussions with your doctor to strike the best balance of reducing risks and maintaining a good quality of life.
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.

Yes, exercise is an excellent way to help lower your blood pressure. Of course, before you start any exercise program, be sure to talk to your doctor. With your doctor’s guidance, exercise can be a healthy way to help get your blood pressure under control. Exercise strengthens your heart and makes it work more efficiently. This means it won’t have to pump as hard, which leads to lower blood pressure.


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.
Blood pressure is measured both when the heart is actually beating (systolic pressure – the first measurement) and between beats (the resting rate, or diastolic pressure – the second measurement). It is given as two figures, eg 120/80. A device called a sphygmomanometer is used. An inflatable cuff is wrapped around your upper arm. When inflated the cuff stops the blood flow in the main blood vessel in your arm. The nurse then watches a gauge in the sphygmomanometer and listens through a stethoscope as the air in the cuff is released. When the first sound of the heartbeat is heard, the systolic pressure is recorded. When the sound disappears, the diastolic pressure is recorded. Sometimes a computerised blood pressure machine is used to take the readings automatically.
The sympathetic nervous system is stimulated by exercise, stress, anxiety, pain, anger, and fear, which increases blood pressure. Blood pressure returns to baseline within five minutes of rest following activity. Try it out. Have a peer take your blood pressure. Then, run on the spot or do some other cardiac activity for five minutes. Have the peer take your blood pressure again, and then lie down and rest for five minutes. Take the blood pressure again. Note the changes.

When a blood pressure reading is taken, the higher number represents the systolic pressure and the lower number represents the diastolic pressure. For example: 120/80 (120 over 80) in an adult means that the systolic pressure is 120 and the diastolic pressure is 80. As kids grow, their blood pressure increases from a systolic pressure of about 70–90 (as babies) to adult values (when they're teens).
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.
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).
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.
According to the CDC, a whopping 75 million Americans—that’s nearly 1/3 of the adult population—are struggling with high blood pressure, increasing their risk of heart attack, stroke, and other life-altering health consequences along the way. Skipping the salt and squeezing in some regular workouts can help keep your blood pressure from reaching dangerous levels, but it takes a more proactive approach to keep your blood pressure under control in the long run.
“I always recommend that people find something that they enjoy doing to stay in shape. For example, line dancing, walking outside, and riding a bike are all good ways to get active,” says Scott Parker, a health and fitness trainer and a national spokesperson for #GoRedGetFit — an online fitness challenge for women hosted by the AHA and Macy’s. “It’s also important to find other people you like doing the activity with, because that helps you stick with it.”
Oatmeal is one of a few semi-processed foods that lower blood pressure. That’s because getting the right amounts of dietary fiber and whole grains is vital to maintaining normal blood pressure, and oatmeal is a tasty source of both. Classic studies have proven that eating oatmeal can lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure. Plus, the fiber can help you maintain a healthy body weight and prevent obesity, a risk factor for high blood pressure. These are the 10 silent signs you could have low blood pressure.
This cruciferous veggie is a good source of the blood pressure-regulating minerals magnesium, calcium, and potassium. In fact, high amounts of those three minerals is a telltale sign of many foods to lower blood pressure. Previous research in animals has found that a diet high in broccoli sprouts may help reduce blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. Broccoli sprouts are high in compounds that may help reduce damage to arteries, which may play a role in high blood pressure. 

Note: The fasting and high blood pressure study described in this article was funded in part by a grant from the National Health Association. It was conducted at the Center for Conservative Therapy in Penngrove, California. The results appeared in the article, “Medically Supervised Water-Only Fasting in the Treatment of Hypertension,” published in June 2001 in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics.
“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.
Not surprisingly, many studies have found that changing to a low-fat vegetarian diet can significantly lower blood pressure. The switch can also reduce the distressing symptoms associated with hypertension, according to a Swedish study. At the end of the trial period, most patients had been able to give up medication, 50 per cent felt ‘much better’, 15 per cent felt ‘better’ and 30 per cent felt ‘completely recovered’.

Hypertension in African-Americans tends to occur earlier in life and tends to be more severe. Plus, some medications that work to lower blood pressure in other ethnicities may have limited effect on African-Americans. Thiazide diuretics (such as HCTZ) or a calcium channel blocker are recommended first choices along with the possible add-on of a second drug from either the ACE inhibitor class or the angiotensin II receptor blocker group.
An important part of a high blood pressure treatment plan is to stick to a healthy diet, including limiting sodium intake. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend consuming less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day (2). People with high blood pressure may need to restrict sodium intake even more. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg per day for adults with hypertension. (3)
Guanadrel (Hylorel)* or guanethidine (Ismelin)* may cause some diarrhea, which may persist in some people. This side effect usually becomes less of a problem if you continue treatment. These drugs reduce blood pressure more when you stand. Consequently, you may get dizzy and lightheaded and feel weak when you get out of bed in the morning or stand up suddenly. If you notice any of these reactions and if they persist for more than a minute or two, contact your doctor. He/she may instruct you to reduce or omit the next dose of the medication.
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.
While medication can lower blood pressure, it may cause side effects such as leg cramps, dizziness, and insomnia. The good news is that most people can bring their numbers down naturally without drugs. “Lifestyle changes are an important part of prevention and treatment of high blood pressure,” says Brandie D. Williams, MD, FACC, a cardiologist at Texas Health Stephenville and Texas Health Physicians Group.
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.
If you're not taking a diuretic and your blood pressure remains high, talk to your doctor about adding one or replacing a drug you currently take with a diuretic. Diuretics or calcium channel blockers may work better for people of African heritage and older people than do angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors alone. A common side effect of diuretics is increased urination.
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.
Fifteen natural ways to lower your blood pressure High blood pressure can damage the heart. It is common, affecting one in three people in the U.S. and 1 billion people worldwide. We describe why stress, sodium, and sugar can raise blood pressure and why berries, dark chocolate, and certain supplements may help to lower it. Learn about these factors and more here. Read now
Hypertension clinical guidelines from the American Heart Association are comprehensive guidelines for healthcare professionals for the detection and treatment of high blood pressure in a wide range of patients. Included in the 2018 hypertension clinical guidelines are proper methods for measuring blood pressure, risk factors for hypertension, and hypertension treatment for different populations.
With age, comes an increased risk for systolic hypertension which can be aggravated by severe atherosclerosis. According to one study, the diuretic chlorthalidone (Hygroton) had significant benefit in elderly patients with systolic hypertension. Along with a diuretic, some calcium channel blockers, ACE inhibitors and angiotensin II receptor blockers may also be good choices. However, beta blockers may not be as effective for hypertension in those over 60; though they may be good choices if co-existing heart disease is present. It also may be preferable in elderly patients to give two high blood pressure medications at a low dose versus one at a higher dose.
If you don't take your high blood pressure medications exactly as directed, your blood pressure can pay the price. If you skip doses because you can't afford the medications, because you have side effects or because you simply forget to take your medications, talk to your doctor about solutions. Don't change your treatment without your doctor's guidance.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed about how to make changes to your diet or if you’re trying to lose weight, you may want to consider working with a registered dietitian-nutritionist (RDN). Some people work with an RDN if they have a health condition like type 2 diabetes. In fact, high blood pressure is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes. This is partly because they share similar modifiable risk factors, like being overweight or obese, following an unhealthy diet, and having a lack of physical activity.

Enlarged heart. High blood pressure increases the amount of work for your heart. Like any heavily exercised muscle in your body, your heart grows bigger (enlarges) to handle the extra workload. The bigger your heart is, the more it demands oxygen-rich blood but the less able it is to maintain proper blood flow. As a result, you feel weak and tired and are not able to exercise or perform physical activities. Without treatment, your heart failure will only get worse.


Stirring some flax into your favorite smoothie or morning oatmeal could be the first step toward lowering your blood pressure. Flaxseed is a great source fiber, as well as omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce inflammation throughout the body and improve the health of your heart and circulatory system. Research conducted at Isfahan University of Medical Sciences even reveals that individuals who added omega-3s to their diets had significantly lower systolic and diastolic blood pressure than their placebo-taking counterparts.
Yes, exercise is an excellent way to help lower your blood pressure. Of course, before you start any exercise program, be sure to talk to your doctor. With your doctor’s guidance, exercise can be a healthy way to help get your blood pressure under control. Exercise strengthens your heart and makes it work more efficiently. This means it won’t have to pump as hard, which leads to lower blood pressure.
She'll inflate the cuff to a pressure higher than your systolic blood pressure, and it will tighten around your arm. Then she'll release it. As the cuff deflates, the first sound she hears through the stethoscope is the systolic blood pressure. It sounds like a whooshing noise. The point where this noise goes away marks the diastolic blood pressure.

Regular visits with your doctor are also key to controlling your blood pressure. If your blood pressure is well-controlled, check with your doctor about how often you need to check it. Your doctor may suggest checking it daily or less often. If you're making any changes in your medications or other treatments, your doctor may recommend you check your blood pressure starting two weeks after treatment changes and a week before your next appointment.
Certain groups of people—the elderly, African Americans, and those with a family history of high blood pressure—are more likely than others to have blood pressure that's particularly salt-sensitive. But because there's no way to tell whether any one individual is at risk, everyone should consume less sodium, says Eva Obarzanek, PhD, a research nutritionist at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
Many kids and teens with high blood pressure have an unhealthy lifestyle — a bad diet, excess weight, stress, and too little physical activity. So the health care provider might recommend weight loss, exercise, reduced screen time (time spent watching TV, or using a computer or mobile devices), dietary changes, and even relaxation techniques. Teens with hypertension should not smoke because it can make the long-term associated heart problems worse.
Headaches strike over 90% of adults each year. You may be able to wait out some and let them pass, but others may be a sign that your body is asking you to take action. There is a chance that your headache could be a symptom of high blood pressure. If there are no other causes of your headache, you should ask your healthcare provider about getting your blood pressure checked.
Caffeine can raise blood pressure by tightening blood vessels and magnifying the effects of stress, says James Lane, PhD, a Duke University researcher who studies caffeine and cardiovascular health. "When you're under stress, your heart starts pumping a lot more blood, boosting blood pressure," he says. "And caffeine exaggerates that effect." (Not sure whether you need to cut back? Here are 6 physical symptoms that mean you're drinking too much coffee.)
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