Posts Tagged ‘Blood pressure’

Aim Lower

May 24th, 2020

Blood Pressure Education Month seeks to reduce dangerous highs.

Did you know that the temperature inside the room, talking or simply crossing your legs can cause a spike in your blood pressure? It’s true, and recognizing such facts is why May has been dubbed National High Blood Pressure Education Month.

Sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the goal behind the event is to raise awareness about the impact high blood pressure can have on a person’s health and to educate people on ways they can better control their blood pressure.

To achieve those objectives, it’s important first and foremost to understand how a person’s blood pressure is measured and what constitutes a normal or abnormal blood pressure reading.

Written or expressed as one number over another, a blood pressure reading is the measurement of the pressure read when the heart has pumped (systolic) and the pressure read when the heart is between beats (diastolic).

The systolic number is typically higher than the diastolic, with a normal reading being in the range of 120 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) over 80 mmHg and high blood pressure reading being anything that is 140 mmHg or higher over 90 mmHg or higher.

The higher the numbers in those readings, the more at risk people become for suffering heart disease and stroke, which currently rank as the first and third leading causes of death in the United States respectively.

High blood pressure can also cause congestive heart failure and even kidney disease, and in the U.S. alone one in three people suffer from this condition. Most, though, don’t even know they have it because, unlike a cold or the flu, it has no symptoms.

That’s why it’s important to understand who is most likely to suffer from high blood pressure and what the lifestyle choices are that one can make that can positively or negatively impact a person’s blood pressure.

As far as who is more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, studies show that men and women both suffer from the condition equally, but men under the age of 45 and women over the age of 65 are among those most affected.

Studies also show that in the U.S, where one in every three adults suffers from high blood pressure, the condition is more common among African Americans than Caucasians and Mexican-Americans.

The good news, though, is that high blood pressure can be controlled and not just through medication. For many, a simple change in lifestyle and food choices can help reduce blood pressure levels.

Since a lack of exercise, smoking and alcohol intake can all cause increases in blood pressure, developing an exercise routine, quitting smoking and drinking less are three lifestyle changes that can help lower a person’s blood pressure.

Eating healthier is another. Because a heavy intake of salt can lead to increases in blood pressure, reducing salt intake can reduce blood pressure levels. But less salt is just one of several food choices that one can make to improve their blood pressure levels.

Foods rich in potassium such as bananas, potatoes, fish, green leafy vegetables and citrus fruits are known to lower blood pressure levels, so incorporating more of those into your diet can help you maintain healthy blood pressure levels.

And finally, there are a few things you can do when having your blood pressure checked that can help you get a more accurate reading of your actual blood pressure. They include not talking and not crossing your legs.

Along with the temperature in the room, which can cause a spike in blood pressure if it causes you to feel chilly, talking and crossing your legs while receiving a blood pressure check can also cause blood pressure spikes.

So can caffeine from sodas and coffee, neither of which should be consumed more than 30 minutes prior to receiving a blood pressure check, a full bladder, your emotional state or sitting in a position where neither your legs nor your back are supported.

Any of those can cause a spike of 10 mmHg or more in the systolic reading of a person’s blood pressure, and as we now know, that 10 mmHg spike could be the difference between receiving a normal blood pressure reading and an abnormal one.

How Low Can You Go?

January 30th, 2018

When you’re stressed, like you might be during a confrontation or when you’re running late, it’s normal for your blood pressure to run a little higher than usual. It’s what’s “usual” that you need to concentrate on, and you want your usual blood pressure to be in the normal range or lower.Stock photo from

Recently, the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology released new guidelines that lower the threshold for what can be considered hypertension, or high blood pressure. The guidelines are based on an individual’s risk for heart disease. By the new standards, tens of millions of Americans should be treated for high blood pressure.

To understand the importance of keeping your blood pressure at a healthy level, it helps to understand what blood pressure is and how it’s measured. Simply put, blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the blood vessels in the heart when it beats. When blood pressure is measured, it is recorded as two numbers, one on top of the other.

The top number is the systolic pressure, which is the pressure in the arteries when your heart is contracting to pump blood out to the body. The bottom number is the diastolic pressure, and that’s the pressure in the arteries when your heart relaxes between beats. As you might expect, the systolic pressure should be higher than the diastolic due to the force of the pumping.

Too much pressure during either phase of the heartbeat can damage the blood vessel walls and lead to serious, even deadly, conditions. These include heart attacks and strokes.

In general, normal blood pressure is a systolic reading of 120 or lower and a diastolic of no more than 80. Systolic pressures of 120 to 129 are considered elevated, and are risk factors for hypertension. High blood pressure is a pressure of 130 or higher systolic or higher than 80 diastolic that stays that way over time.

There are some risk factors for developing high blood pressure that cannot be controlled, such as having a family history of high blood pressure and getting older. There are other risk factors that you can control, such as smoking, being overweight, eating an unhealthy diet and being physical inactive.

Most doctors take your blood pressure every time you go in for an appointment. If your blood pressure is high on two or more readings done on two or more occasions, you are typically diagnosed with high blood pressure.

However, the new guidelines set by the AHA and ACC look at overall risk for heart attack and stroke in determining when a person should be diagnosed with high blood pressure. They suggest anyone with a 10 percent or greater risk in the next decade should be treated. Using their formula, that works out to about half of all Americans and 80 percent of those over age 65. To determine your risk, you can use an online calculator such as this one.

Since so many of the risk factors for high blood pressure can be controlled, treatment generally begins with lifestyle modification.

Many times, taking steps such as quitting smoking, achieving an appropriate weight, eating a nutritious diet, limiting alcohol consumption and becoming more physically active is enough to reach and maintain a healthy blood pressure. Other times, people need to add medication to their healthy lifestyles to control their elevated pressures.

There are a number of blood pressure medications, or antihypertensives, available. They work in different ways to lower blood pressure and improve blood flow through the vessels. A few of the more common are listed below, but you’ll find more information in this article from AHA:

  • These drugs help the body rid itself of excess water and sodium, which decreases stress on the blood vessels and lowers pressure.
  • ACE inhibitors. ACE stands for angiotensin-converting enzyme. ACE inhibitors help the body produce less angiotensin, a chemical that causes the arteries to narrow. With less angiotensin, blood vessels relax and widen, enabling freer flow of blood.
  • Beta-blockers. These medicines reduce heart rate, and the heart’s workload and output of blood.
  • Calcium channel blockers. These drugs prevent calcium from entering the smooth muscle cells of the heart and arteries. Without a lot of calcium acting against it, the heart doesn’t have to contract as forcefully.
  • Vasodilators. Also called blood vessel dilators, these medications cause the muscles cells in the walls of the blood vessels to relax, allowing them to widen.

High blood pressure has no symptoms, and it’s often called a silent killer. That’s why it’s important to visit your doctor regularly, so he or she can keep an eye on your readings. Of course, you don’t need your doctor’s advice to make positive lifestyle changes. Quitting smoking, eating heathy and exercising is good for everybody!

Get the Most from Medications

May 1st, 2017

When picking up a prescription at a drug store, customers typically are asked, Do you have any questions for the pharmacist? For most people in a hurry, the routine answer is no. But investing a few moments in understanding the medication you’ve just been handed isn’t a bad idea.get-most-from-medication_istock-509483224

For instance, should you take the medicine with food or water? If you’re taking another drug – or even something over-the-counter – will there be an interaction? Does it matter what time of day you take the medicine? How will you know it’s working? What are potential side effects and when should you be concerned?

Information about how to take a specific medicine can be found by reading drug insert labels or visiting a reputable online source such as MedlinePlus at the National Institutes of Health. However, your doctor or pharmacist may have more specific advice about what is right for you, so be sure to ask them for their recommendations.

Being an informed patient will help you get the most out of your medications and take them safely.

The following are just three examples of medications that are easy to take incorrectly:

Prilosec: A proton-pump inhibitor for treating acid reflux, this popular drug’s generic name is omeprazole. Typically, it supposed to taken in the morning an hour before eating. Taking it to alleviate symptoms – when your heartburn is flaring – won’t have the same effect.

Thyroid medicine: Drugs like Levoxyl are tablets that dissolve quickly in the throat. It’s recommended to take them with a full glass of water so they don’t get stuck or cause choking, gagging or difficulty swallowing.

Blood pressure medicine: Millions of older adults skip doses, stop taking the medicine altogether or fail to fill prescriptions, according to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. High blood pressure is often silent until it causes cardiovascular damage or other harm, so maybe it’s easy to forget you have it. Don’t! If you need blood pressure medicine, you need to take it as prescribed every day to avoid a heart attack or stroke.

Meanwhile, there’s a rule of thumb we should all know: If you’re taking antibiotics, please do the rest of the world a favor and finish the whole bottle. Even if you’re feeling better before all the pills are gone. This helps prevent the development of “super bugs,” the germs that are resistant to today’s antibiotics.

For learning more about medication and being a smart consumer, the Food and Drug Administration offers plenty of information online. Visit its consumer information center for free drug-related publications to read about prescription and over-the-counter medications and how to take them safely.

By Susan Hemmingway

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