High blood pressure

High blood pressure is more than a medical annoyance; it is the most accurate predictor of future cardiovascular disease in people over age sixty-five. Simply put, High blood pressure refers to the pressure of the blood against the blood vessels as the heart pumps through the arteries. When blood presses against the walls of the blood vessels at a level that is greater than normal, it is known as hypertension, or high blood pressure.

One of the main reasons the blood does this is that the arteries are clogged with cholesterol, forcing the heart to work harder and harder to pump the blood through narrow vessels, which in turn raises blood pressure. Other factors that can lead or contribute to High blood pressure include smoking, obesity, high salt intake, use of contraceptives, stress, and excessive intake of coffee or tea.

High blood pressure A blood pressure reading consists of two numbers: the systolic pressure (the higher number, reflecting the pressure when the heart contracts) and the diastolic pressure (the lower number, reflecting the pressure as the heart rests between beats). A normal blood pressure reading is defined as 120/80, though the numbers fluctuate somewhat throughout the day. Blood pressure is measured with an instrument called a sphygmomanometer, and the numbers refer to the level to which a column of mercury (Hg) rises at each pressure reading.

Approximately 40 million Americans have high blood pressure, which places them at risk for heart failure, stroke, loss of vision, and kidney failure because the heart must work harder than normal to pump blood. High blood pressure is often seen in people who have diabetes, coronary heart disease, kidney problems, obesity, arteriosclerosis, and adrenal tumors. Many people with hypertension are unaware they have the condition because they experience no symptoms.

Fortunately, in most cases high blood pressure can be lowered by diet and lifestyle changes. Hypertension should not be considered an inevitable consequence of aging; it can be controlled.

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