High Blood Pressure

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What is high blood pressure?

Blood pressure is a combination of the pressure generated by the heart on your blood vessels in order to pump the blood through your body and the pressure in the arteries when the heart is relaxed. Normal blood pressure falls within a range; it's not one set of numbers. Blood pressure that is 140/90 mm Hg or higher is considered high (hypertension).

How do I get high blood pressure?

In 90 to 95 percent of high blood pressure cases, the cause is unknown. In fact, you can have high blood pressure for years without knowing it.

High blood pressure adds to the workload of your heart and arteries. Your heart must pump harder. If high blood pressure continues for a long time, your heart and arteries may not work as well as they should. Other body organs may also be affected. There is increased risk of stroke, congestive heart failure, kidney failure and heart attack. When high blood pressure exists with obesity, smoking, high blood cholesterol or diabetes, you are at increased risk for heart attack and stroke.

What are the symptoms?

High blood pressure usually has no symptoms. In fact, many people have this disease for years without knowing it. Having high blood pressure (hypertension) doesn't mean you're tense, nervous or hyperactive. You can be a calm, relaxed person and still have hypertension. The only way to find out if you have this disease is to have your blood pressure checked! A blood pressure test is quick and painless. It can be done in a doctor's office, hospital clinic, school, nurse's office, company clinic or at a health fair. Someone in the office will wrap a rubber cuff around your upper arm and inflate it. They will then listen with their stethoscope and look at the numbers on the gauge. The reading taken by the doctor or nurse is your blood pressure.

A single high reading doesn't mean you have high blood pressure, but it's a sign that you need to watch your blood pressure carefully. If your blood pressure is normal, get it checked at least every two years. If you have pre-hypertension, or if you have a family history of high blood pressure, you're at higher risk. Your doctor will tell you how often to have it checked.

What can I do to prevent high blood pressure?

Although doctors are still not sure what the exact causes of high blood pressure are, there are a number of things you can do to reduce your risk of developing it.

  • Know what your weight should be. Keep it at or below that level. Lose weight if you're overweight.
  • Enjoy at least 30 minutes of physical activity on most days of the week.
  • Avoid excessive alcohol.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Manage your stress.
  • Reduce your salt intake.
  • Eat your fruits and veggies and avoid animal fats (fatty meat, butter, etc).

How do I treat it?

  • Follow medical advice about diet and physical activity. Make an effort to lose weight if it's recommended. Make changes in your general health habits if you need to.
  • Take prescribed blood pressure drugs as directed. If you don't feel well after taking a medication, tell your doctor how you feel. This will help your doctor adjust your treatment so you won't have unpleasant side effects.
  • Eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day as well as 2–4 servings of fat-free or low-fat dairy products.
  • Use less salt and try not to eat too many salty foods.
  • Limit yourself to no more than one alcoholic drink a day (for women) or two drinks a day (for men).
  • Come to the Young Men's Clinic so we can talk about keeping a healthy blood pressure.