High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure occurs when the pressure within blood vessels is too high. People with an average blood pressure reading of more than 140/90 are considered to have high blood pressure. If it goes untreated or uncontrolled, the condition can lead to serious health problems, such as heart attack and kidney failure. Common risk factors include obesity, being physically inactive, and consuming too much sodium.
Blood pressure is a measure of the pressure inside your blood vessels — both while the heart is beating and while it is relaxed. High blood pressure, as you might guess, is when the pressure within your blood vessels is too high. This is also known as hypertension. About 65 million American adults — nearly 1 in 3 — have high blood pressure.
Why Is Blood Pressure Important?
Blood pressure is the amount of force (pressure) that blood exerts on the walls of the vessels as it passes through them. As blood is pumped from your heart into your blood vessels, enough pressure is created to send it to all other parts of your body. As vessels travel away from the heart, they branch off and gradually get smaller, just like the branches of a tree. One branch may go to the brain, while another may go to your kidneys. Blood pressure keeps the blood flowing through all these branches so that your body’s cells get the oxygen and nutrients they need and waste matter can be removed.
Causes of High Blood Pressure
In most people, the specific cause or
causes of high blood pressure are not known. This is called primary or essential hypertension. In other people, the condition is the result of another medical problem or medication. When the cause is known, this is called secondary high blood pressure or secondary hypertension.
If a person is diagnosed with high blood pressure, it doesn’t mean that he or she is “too nervous,” overanxious, or obsessive. This is a popular myth. High blood pressure is not nervous tension. In fact, many people who are perfectly calm have the condition
Effects of High Blood Pressure
Over time, the effects of high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) can include a heart attack, kidney failure, and congestive heart failure. The body structures most vulnerable to high blood pressure include the blood vessels, heart, brain, and kidneys. Fortunately, making certain lifestyle changes can help reduce the impact on these vital organs.
High blood pressure is often referred to as “the silent killer.” Most people with high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) don’t have any high blood pressure symptoms, since the effects are occurring inside the body.
The body structures that chronic high blood pressure affects most include:
- · Blood vessels
- · Heart
- · Brain
- · Kidneys
- · Eyes.
Because of the effects on these organs, a person who has had high blood pressure for a long time (known as chronic hypertension) can have:
- · A heart attack
- · Kidney failure
- · Congestive heart failure (CHF)
- · Eye damage with loss of vision
- · Peripheral arterial disease, including bulges or outpouchings of the aorta (called aneurysms)
- · A stroke or “mini stroke” — also known as a “TIA” (transient ischemic attack).
Exercise and High Blood Pressure
Exercise is one of the best ways to prevent or control high blood pressure. Research on high blood pressure and exercise indicates that all frequencies, types, and intensities of aerobic exercise can lower blood pressure. Engaging in 30 minutes of moderate-level exercise can lower high blood pressure by anywhere from 2.5 to 25 mmHg.
Being physically active is one of the most important steps you can take to prevent or control high blood pressure. It also helps reduce your risk of heart disease. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to become physically active. All you need is 30 minutes of moderate-level exercise on most days of the week. Examples of such activities include:
- · Brisk walking
- · Bicycling
- · Raking leaves
- · Gardening.
You can even divide the 30 minutes into shorter periods of at least 10 minutes each.
If you already engage in 30 minutes of moderate-level exercise a day, you can get added benefits by doing more. Engage in a moderate-level exercise for a longer period each day or engage in a more vigorous activity.
Most people don’t need to see a doctor before they start a moderate-level exercise program. However, you should check first with your doctor if you:
- · Have heart trouble or have had a heart attack
- · Are over age 50 and are not used to moderate-level physical activity
- · Have a family history of heart disease at an early age
- · Have any other serious health problem.