Blood Pressure Definition|Blood Pressure Meaning
What is high blood pressure? Blood pressure is the pressure of the blood against the blood vessel walls each time the heart contracts (squeezes) to pump the blood through your body.
High blood pressure also is called hypertension. Hypertension can lead to health problems. During pregnancy, severe or uncontrolled hypertension can cause complications for you and your fetus.
Blood Pressure Readings
Only one of the numbers has to be higher or lower than it should be to count as either high blood pressure or low blood pressure:
- 90 over 60 (90/60) or less: You may have low blood pressure. More on low blood pressure.
- More than 90 over 60 (90/60) and less than 120 over 80 (120/80): Your blood pressure reading is ideal and healthy. Follow a healthy lifestyle to keep it at this level.
- More than 120 over 80 and less than 140 over 90 (120/80-140/90): You have a normal blood pressure reading but it is a little higher than it should be, and you should try to lower it. Make healthy changes to your lifestyle.
- 140 over 90 (140/90) or higher (over a number of weeks): You may have high blood pressure (hypertension). Change your lifestyle – see your doctor or nurse and take any medicines they may give you. More on high blood pressure
if your top number is 140 or more – then you may have high blood pressure, regardless of your bottom number.
if your bottom number is 90 or more – then you may have high blood pressure, regardless of your top number.
if your top number is 90 or less – then you may have low blood pressure, regardless of your bottom number.
if your bottom number is 60 or less – then you may have low blood pressure, regardless of your top number.
Blood Pressure Chart|Blood Pressure Chart For Women
Use the blood pressure chart below to see what your blood pressure means. The blood pressure chart is suitable for adults of any age. (The level for high blood pressure does not change with age.)
Blood pressure readings have two numbers, for example, 140/90mmHg.
The top number is your systolic blood pressure. (The highest pressure when your heart beats and pushes the blood around your body.) The bottom one is your diastolic blood pressure. (The lowest pressure when your heart relaxes between beats.)
The blood pressure chart below shows ranges of high, low and healthy blood pressure readings.large
Blood Pressure Symptoms
One of the most dangerous aspects of hypertension is that you may not know that you have it. In fact, nearly one-third of people who have high blood pressure don’t know it. The only way to know if your blood pressure is high is through regular checkups. This is especially important if you have a close relative who has high blood pressure.
If your blood pressure is extremely high, there may be certain symptoms to look out for, including:
- Severe headache
- Fatigue or confusion
- Vision problems
- Chest pain
- Difficulty breathing
- Irregular heartbeat
- Blood in the urine
- Pounding in your chest, neck, or ears
If you have any of these symptoms, see a doctor immediately. You could be having a hypertensive crisis that could lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Untreated hypertension can lead to serious diseases, including stroke, heart disease, kidney failure, and eye problems.
Blood Pressure Monitor|Blood Pressure Machine
The blood pressure monitors are sold at local health care facilities at different costs. Visit jumia.co.ke to purchase yours today.
Blood Pressure Range|Blood Pressure Levels
Follow a healthy lifestyle to keep it at this level. More than 120 over 80 and less than 140 over 90 (120/80-140/90): You have a normal blood pressure reading but it is a little higher than it should be, and you should try to lower it.
Blood Pressure During Pregnancy|Blood Pressure In Pregnancy
A woman can develop high blood pressure, or hypertension, at any point during pregnancy.
High blood pressure is affecting more and more pregnant women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of pregnant women who developed high blood pressure in the United States almost doubled between 1993 and 2014.
High blood pressure affects an estimated 6–8 percent of pregnancies in women aged 20–44 in the U.S.
If left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to serious health complications for the mother, her infant, or both. In most cases, however, hypertension is preventable and treatable.
In this article, we will discuss the different types of high blood pressure that a woman can develop during pregnancy, the risk factors and complications of high blood pressure, and how to prevent and treat high blood pressure during pregnancy.
Types of hypertension in pregnancy
According to the CDC, blood pressure measurements that are greater than or equal to 140/90 millimeters of mercury indicate high blood pressure.
Women can experience one of three types of high blood pressure during pregnancy: chronic hypertension, gestational hypertension, or preeclampsia.
A person may have chronic hypertension before pregnancy, whereas gestational hypertension only occurs during pregnancy.
However, gestational hypertension may sometimes persist after pregnancy to become chronic hypertension.
Women who have chronic hypertension either had high blood pressure before becoming pregnant or developed it within the first half, or 20 weeks, of their pregnancy.
It is possible for a woman to develop a subtype called chronic hypertension with superimposed preeclampsia.
Women with this condition have high blood pressure and can possibly develop an abnormal amount of protein in their urine, or proteinuria. The presence of protein in the urine can indicate problems with the kidneys. Women may also have changes in liver function.
Gestational hypertension only occurs during pregnancy and without the presence of protein in the urine or changes in liver function. Women usually develop this condition in the second half, or after the first 20 weeks, of their pregnancy.
This form of high blood pressure is typically temporary and tends to go away after childbirth. However, it can increase a woman’s risk of developing high blood pressure later in life.
In some cases, the blood pressure will remain elevated after the pregnancy, resulting in chronic hypertension.
Preeclampsia is a high blood pressure condition that women can develop during pregnancy or after giving birth. It is a serious condition that can have severe consequences. It usually occurs in the third trimester. It rarely occurs after delivery, but it is possible.
Doctors often diagnose preeclampsia after taking blood pressure measurements and testing blood and urine samples. Women who develop a mild form of preeclampsia may not experience any symptoms.
If symptoms of preeclampsia do develop, they can include:
- high blood pressure
- excessive swelling of the face and hands
- weight gain due to fluid retention
- shortness of breath
- abdominal pain
- blurred vision
- sensitivity to light
Preeclampsia with seizures, or eclampsia, is a different condition. It can be fatal.
Complications of hypertension for the mother
If hypertension is severe or uncontrolled, it can cause complications for the mother and baby.
High blood pressure during pregnancy puts women at an increased risk of more serious health conditions later in life. One 2013 study revealed that gestational hypertension was associated with a higher risk of ischemic heart disease, myocardial infarction (heart attack), heart failure, and ischemic stroke.
Poorly controlled high blood pressure puts a woman at risk of developing preeclampsia and gestational diabetes.
One complication of hypertension is HELLP syndrome. This is a rare life-threatening liver and blood disorder. Doctors consider it to be a severe variant of preeclampsia. HELLP stands for:
- Hemolysis, or the breaking down of red blood cells
- Elevated Liver enzymes, which is a sign of liver damage
- Low Platelet count; platelets are a material that forms blood clots
Other complications associated with high blood pressure during pregnancy include:
- placental abruption, a serious medical condition in which the placenta separates from the wall of the uterus too early
- preterm delivery, or giving birth before the due date, which healthcare providers may advise if the placenta is not providing enough nutrients and oxygen to the baby or if the mother’s life is in danger
Risks of hypertension for the baby
High blood pressure can increase the risk of poor birth outcomes, such as preterm delivery, smaller-than-average size, and infant death.
High blood pressure affects the mother’s blood vessels. This can decrease the flow of nutrients through the placenta to the baby, resulting in low birth weight.
Hypertension-related preterm delivery can result in health complications for the baby. These may include difficulty breathing if the lungs are not fully developed, for example.
Signs and symptoms
The American Heart Association (AHA) call high blood pressure the “silent killer” because most people who have it do not develop symptoms. This means that a person may have high blood pressure without knowing it.
Monitoring blood pressure is an essential part of prenatal care. It is important to remember that women can develop high blood pressure before, during, and after their pregnancy.
It is important that women attend regular prenatal checkups to ensure that their blood pressure and other vital signs are within normal ranges and receive treatment if not.
Also, blood pressure fluctuates in response to small changes in a person’s life, such as stress, diet, exercise, and the quality of their sleep. This is why it is so important that people check their blood pressure regularly.
Risk factors for hypertension
Risk factors for gestational hypertension and preeclampsia include:
- a history of preeclampsia
- preexisting hypertension
- pregestational diabetes
- having twins or triplets
- preexisting kidney disease
- some autoimmune diseases
The following are risk factors for a person to develop hypertension:
- having a family history of high blood pressure
- being overweight
- having high cholesterol
- smoking cigarettes
- drinking alcohol
- not exercising often
- becoming pregnant at an older age
- having had high blood pressure during a previous pregnancy
Women with chronic hypertension should continue taking antihypertensive medication during their pregnancy. However, some common antihypertensive medications are not suitable for pregnant women to take, so healthcare providers may recommend a different medication.
If gestational hypertension is severe or a woman develops preeclampsia or eclampsia, a doctor may prescribe medications to lower her blood pressure and help the baby mature if the pregnancy is not full-term. Women may be hospitalized for monitoring.
Healthcare providers may recommend anticonvulsive medications, such as magnesium sulfate, to prevent seizures in people with eclampsia or preeclampsia.
In some cases, a doctor may advise the delivery of the baby for treatment. The timing of delivery depends on how severe the mother’s condition has become, as well as how far along the pregnancy is.
Women who are pregnant should speak with their healthcare provider about ways to control their blood pressure.
Making simple lifestyle changes, such as getting more exercise and eating a more balanced diet, can help prevent high blood pressure.
It is important to note that some risk factors, such as family history, race, and past pregnancy history, are not within a person’s control. For this reason, not all cases of hypertension in pregnancy are preventable.
Some ways to lower the risk of high blood pressure during pregnancy include:
- limiting salt intake
- staying hydrated
- eating a balanced diet that is rich in plant-based foods and low in processed foods
- getting regular exercise
- getting regular prenatal checkups
- avoiding smoking cigarettes and drinking alcohol
Medical professionals tend to recommend that people have regular blood pressure screening, especially when they have risk factors so that they can begin to treat it early.
Blood Pressure Causes
Blood pressure goes up and down throughout the day. It depends on the time of day, the amount of fluid in your body, the medicines in your system and what you are doing. Your blood pressure can also be affected by things like your breathing, your emotions, exercise, and sleep. These temporary rises are completely natural and your blood pressure will generally return to normal when you rest.
The exact cause of high blood pressure is often not clear. However, various lifestyle conditions and behaviors have been known to significantly contribute to high blood pressure:
- Being overweight
- Not getting enough physical activity
- Drinking more than 2 alcoholic drinks per day
- Old age
- Family history of high blood pressure
Prolonged high blood pressure is known as hypertension. Left undiagnosed, hypertension can lead to several health issues, coronary heart disease (CHD) among them.
Blood Pressure Control
Coping and support
High blood pressure isn’t a problem that you can treat and then ignore. It’s a condition you need to manage for the rest of your life. To keep your blood pressure under control:
- Take your medications properly. If side effects or costs pose problems, don’t stop taking your medications. Ask your doctor about other options.
- Schedule regular doctor visits. It takes a team effort to treat high blood pressure successfully. Your doctor can’t do it alone, and neither can you. Work with your doctor to bring your blood pressure to a safe level, and keep it there.
- Adopt healthy habits. Eat healthy foods, lose excess weight and get regular physical activity. Limit alcohol. If you smoke, quit.
- Manage stress. Say no to extra tasks, release negative thoughts, maintain good relationships, and remain patient and optimistic.
- Regular physical activity
- Stopping smoking
Sticking to lifestyle changes can be difficult, especially if you don’t see or feel any symptoms of high blood pressure. If you need motivation, remember the risks associated with uncontrolled high blood pressure. It may help to enlist the support of your family and friends as well.
Blood Pressure Medicine|Drugs|Blood Pressure Medication
How to choose a high blood pressure (hypertension) medicine
There are a number of types and classes of drugs available for the management and treatment of high blood pressure (hypertension). Your doctor or other health care professional will prescribe a drug that fits your specific needs based on your medical condition, and any other existing health problems you may have, for example, kidney disease, heart disease, or diabetes. Your doctor also may recommend other therapies and lifestyle changes like getting more exercise, managing stress, and eating a healthy diet.
This information will provide a list of high blood pressure medication generic and brand names, their uses (treatment, management, or prevention of health problems, how they work (mechanism of action), and common side effects.
Blood Pressure Medicine
Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors are blood pressure medications that inhibit the activity of the enzyme angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE), which is important for controlling blood pressure.
Angiotensin II is a very potent chemical formed in the blood by ACE from, angiotensin I. When formed, angiotensin II causes the muscles surrounding blood vessels to contract, thus narrowing the vessels and increasing blood pressure.
ACE inhibitors are medications that inhibit the activity of ACE which decreases the production of angiotensin II. As a result, these medications cause the blood vessels to enlarge or dilate, and this reduces blood pressure. This lower blood pressure makes it easier for the heart to pump blood and can improve the function of a failing heart. In addition, the progression of kidney disease due to high blood pressure or diabetes is slowed.
Common side effects of this ACE inhibitors
- Low blood pressure (hypotension)
- Increased blood potassium levels
This list does not do not include all side effects or adverse events for ACE inhibitors.
This class of medications also are used for other health conditions, for example:
- Prevention and treatment of diabetes and kidney disease
- Heart failure
Examples of generic and brand names available for ACE inhibitors
- enalapril (Vasotec)
- captopril (Capoten)
- lisinopril (Zestril and Prinivil)
- benazepril (Lotensin)
- quinapril (Accupril)
- perindopril (Aceon)
- ramipril (Altace)
- trandolapril (Mavik)
- fosinopril (Monopril)
- moexipril (Univasc)
Angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs)
Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) are medications used to treat elevated blood pressure or hypertension. These medications that block the action of angiotensin II by preventing angiotensin II from binding to angiotensin II receptors on the muscles surrounding blood vessels.
As a result, blood vessels enlarge (dilate), and blood pressure is reduced. Reduced blood pressure makes it easier for the heart to pump blood and can improve heart failure.
In addition, the progression of kidney disease due to high blood pressure or diabetes is slowed. ARBs have effects similar to ACE inhibitors, but ACE inhibitors act by preventing the formation of angiotensin II rather than by blocking the binding of angiotensin II to muscles on blood vessels.
Common side effects of ARBs
- Low blood pressure (Hypotension)
- Increased blood potassium levels
This list does not do not include all side effects or adverse events for ARBs.
This class of medications also are used for other health conditions, for example:
- Prevention and treatment of diabetic kidney disease
- Heart failure
Examples of generic and brand names available for ARBs
- losartan (Cozaar)
- irbesartan (Avapro)
- valsartan (Diovan)
- candesartan (Atacand)
- olmesartan (Benicar)
- telmisartan (Micardis)
- eprosartan (Teveten)
- azilsartan (Edarbi)
- Daily Health News
Beta blockers are medications that block norepinephrine and epinephrine (adrenaline) from binding to both beta 1 and beta 2 receptors on organs and muscles, including the muscles surrounding blood vessels that cause the blood vessels to narrow and the heart to beat.
By blocking the effect of norepinephrine and epinephrine, beta blockers reduce blood pressure by dilating blood vessels and reducing heart rate.
They also may constrict air passages because stimulation of beta receptors in the lung causes the muscles that surround the air passages to contract.
Common side effects of beta blockers
- Shortness of breath
- Low blood pressure
This list does not do not include all side effects or adverse events for beta blockers.
This class of medications also are used for other health conditions, for example:
- Heart failure
- Chest pain (angina)
- Fast heart rate
Examples of brand and generic names available for beta blockers
- acebutolol (Sectral)
- atenolol (Tenormin)
- betaxolol (Kerlone has been discontinued)
- bisoprolol fumarate (Zebeta)
- carteolol (Cartrol, discontinued)
- carvedilol (Coreg)
- esmolol (Brevibloc)
- labetalol (Trandate [Normodyne – discontinued])
- metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol XL)
- nadolol (Corgard)
- nebivolol (Bystolic)
- penbutolol (Levatol has been discontinued)
- pindolol (Visken, discontinued)
- propranolol (Hemangeol, Inderal LA Inderal XL, InnoPran XL)
- timolol (Blocadren, discontinued)
Calcium channel blockers (CCBs)
Calcium is needed by all muscle cells, including those of the heart and muscles and surrounding arteries, in order for the cells to contract. CCBs inhibit the movement of calcium into muscle cells.
The reduction in calcium reduces the force of the heart’s muscular pumping action (cardiac contraction) and thereby reduces blood pressure.
These medications also relax the muscle cells surrounding the arteries to further reduce blood pressure. Three major types of calcium channel blockers are available.
One type is the dihydropyridines, which do not slow the heart rate or cause other abnormal heart rates or rhythms (cardiac arrhythmias).
They are commonly used for treating high blood pressure and are very effective in reducing blood pressure in African Americans.
Common side effects of CCBs
- Water retention in the arm and legs (peripheral edema)
- Shortness of breath
This list does not do not include all side effects or adverse events for CCBs.
This class of medications also are used for other health conditions, for example:
- Migraine headache prevention
- Chest pain (angina)
- Abnormal heartbeats
- Essential tremor
- Hypertrophic subaortic stenosis
- Portal hypertension
Examples of brand and generic names available for CCBs
- amlodipine (Norvasc)
- amlodipine and atorvastatin (Caduet)
- amlodipine and benazepril (Lotrel)
- amlodipine and valsartan (Exforge)
- amlodipine and telmisartan (Twynsta)
- amlodipine and olmesartan (Azor)
- amlodipine and olmesartan and hydrochlorothiazide (Tribenzor)
- amlodipine and aliskiren (Tekamlo has been discontinued in the US)
- amlodipine and aliskiren and hydrochlorothiazide (Amturnide has been discontinued in the US)
- amlodipine and perindopril (Prestalia)
- clevidipine (Cleviprex)
- diltiazem (Cardizem)
- felodipine (Plendil has been discontinued in the US)
- isradipine (Dynacirc has been discontinued in the US)
- nifedipine (Procardia, Procardia XL, Adalat CC, Afeditab)
- nicardipine (Cardene, Cardene SR)
- nimodipine (Nimotop has been discontinued in the US)
- nisoldipine (Sular)
- verapamil (Calan)
The other two types of CCBs are referred to as the non-dihydropyridine agents. One type is verapamil (Calan, Covera, Isoptin, Verelan) and the other is diltiazem (Cardizem, Tiazac, Dilacor, and Diltia).
Diuretics, sometimes called water pills, are medications that act on your kidneys to help your body eliminate sodium and water, reducing blood volume.
Thiazide diuretics are often the first, but not the only, choice in high blood pressure medications. Thiazide diuretics include chlorthalidone, hydrochlorothiazide (Microzide) and others.
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.
Additional medications sometimes used to treat high blood pressure
If you’re having trouble reaching your blood pressure goal with combinations of the above medications, your doctor may prescribe:
- Alpha blockers. These medications reduce nerve impulses to blood vessels, reducing the effects of natural chemicals that narrow blood vessels. Alpha blockers include doxazosin (Cardura), prazosin (Minipress) and others.
- Alpha-beta blockers. In addition to reducing nerve impulses to blood vessels, alpha-beta blockers slow the heartbeat to reduce the amount of blood that must be pumped through the vessels. Alpha-beta blockers include carvedilol (Coreg) and labetalol (Trandate).
- Beta blockers. These medications reduce the workload on your heart and open your blood vessels, causing your heart to beat slower and with less force. Beta blockers include acebutolol (Sectral), atenolol (Tenormin) and others.Beta blockers aren’t usually recommended as the only medication you’re prescribed, but they may be effective when combined with other blood pressure medications.
- Aldosterone antagonists. Examples are spironolactone (Aldactone) and eplerenone (Inspra). These drugs block the effect of a natural chemical that can lead to salt and fluid retention, which can contribute to high blood pressure.
- Renin inhibitors. Aliskiren (Tekturna) slows down the production of renin, an enzyme produced by your kidneys that starts a chain of chemical steps that increases blood pressure.Aliskiren works by reducing the ability of renin to begin this process. Due to a risk of serious complications, including stroke, you shouldn’t take aliskiren with ACE inhibitors or ARBs.
- Vasodilators. These medications, including hydralazine and minoxidil, work directly on the muscles in the walls of your arteries, preventing the muscles from tightening and your arteries from narrowing.
- Central-acting agents. These medications prevent your brain from signaling your nervous system to increase your heart rate and narrow your blood vessels. Examples include clonidine (Catapres, Kapvay), guanfacine (Intuniv, Tenex) and methyldopa.
To reduce the number of daily medication doses you need, your doctor may prescribe a combination of low-dose medications rather than larger doses of one single drug.
In fact, two or more blood pressure drugs often are more effective than one. Sometimes finding the most effective medication or combination of drugs is a matter of trial and error.
Blood Pressure Diet
Lifestyle and home remedies
Lifestyle changes can help you control and prevent high blood pressure, even if you’re taking blood pressure medication. Here’s what you can do:
- Eat healthy foods. Eat a heart-healthy diet. Try the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet, which emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, poultry, fish and low-fat dairy foods. Get plenty of potassium, which can help prevent and control high blood pressure. Eat less saturated fat and trans fat.
- Decrease the salt in your diet. Aim to limit sodium to less than 2,300 milligrams (mg) a day or less. However, a lower sodium intake — 1,500 mg a day or less — is ideal for most adults.While you can reduce the amount of salt you eat by putting down the saltshaker, you generally should also pay attention to the amount of salt that’s in the processed foods you eat, such as canned soups or frozen dinners.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Keeping a healthy weight, or losing weight if you’re overweight or obese, can help you control your high blood pressure and lower your risk of related health problems. In general, you may reduce your blood pressure by about 1 mm Hg with each kilogram (about 2.2 pounds) of weight you lose.
- Increase physical activity. Regular physical activity can help lower your blood pressure, manage stress, reduce your risk of several health problems and keep your weight under control.Aim for at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity. For example, try brisk walking for about 30 minutes most days of the week. Or try interval training, in which you alternate short bursts of intense activity with short recovery periods of lighter activity. Aim to do muscle-strengthening exercises at least two days a week.
- Limit alcohol. Even if you’re healthy, alcohol can raise your blood pressure. If you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women, and up to two drinks a day for men. One drink equals 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.
- Don’t smoke. Tobacco can injure blood vessel walls and speed up the process of buildup of plaque in the arteries. If you smoke, ask your doctor to help you quit.
- Manage stress. Reduce stress as much as possible. Practice healthy coping techniques, such as muscle relaxation, deep breathing or meditation. Getting regular physical activity and plenty of sleep can help, too.
- Monitor your blood pressure at home. Home blood pressure monitoring can help you keep closer tabs on your blood pressure, show if medication is working, and even alert you and your doctor to potential complications. Home blood pressure monitoring isn’t a substitute for visits to your doctor, and home blood pressure monitors may have some limitations. Even if you get normal readings, don’t stop or change your medications or alter your diet without talking to your doctor first.If your blood pressure is under control, check with your doctor about how often you need to check it.
- Practice relaxation or slow, deep breathing. Practice taking deep, slow breaths to help relax. There are some devices available that promote slow, deep breathing. According to the American Heart Association, device-guided breathing may be a reasonable nondrug option for lowering blood pressure, especially when anxiety accompanies high blood pressure or standard treatments aren’t well-tolerated.
- Control blood pressure during pregnancy. If you’re a woman with high blood pressure, discuss with your doctor how to control your blood pressure during pregnancy.
Although diet and exercise are the most appropriate tactics to lower your blood pressure, some supplements also may help lower it. However, more research is needed to determine the potential benefits. These include:
- Fiber, such as blond psyllium and wheat bran
- Minerals, such as magnesium, calcium, and potassium
- Folic acid
- Supplements or products that increase nitric oxide or widen blood vessels (vasodilators), such as cocoa, coenzyme Q10, L-arginine or garlic
- Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish, high-dose fish oil supplements or flaxseed
Some research is studying whether vitamin D can reduce blood pressure, but more research is needed.
While it’s best to include these supplements in your diet as foods, you can also take supplement pills or capsules. Talk to your doctor before adding any of these supplements to your blood pressure treatment.
Some supplements can interact with medications, causing harmful side effects, such as an increased bleeding risk that could be fatal.
You can also practice relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing or meditation, to help you relax and reduce your stress level. These practices may temporarily reduce your blood pressure.
Blood Pressure Measurement
- Normal blood pressure. Your blood pressure is normal if it’s below 120/80 mm Hg.
- Elevated blood pressure. Elevated blood pressure is a systolic pressure ranging from 120 to 129 mm Hg and a diastolic pressure below 80 mm Hg. Elevated blood pressure tends to get worse over time unless steps are taken to control blood pressure.
- Stage 1 hypertension. Stage 1 hypertension is a systolic pressure ranging from 130 to 139 mm Hg or a diastolic pressure ranging from 80 to 89 mm Hg.
- Stage 2 hypertension. More severe hypertension, stage 2 hypertension is a systolic pressure of 140 mm Hg or higher or a diastolic pressure of 90 mm Hg or higher.
Both numbers in a blood pressure reading are important. But after age 50, the systolic reading is even more significant. Isolated systolic hypertension is a condition in which the diastolic pressure is normal (less than 80 mm Hg) but systolic pressure is high (greater than or equal to 130 mm Hg).
This is a common type of high blood pressure among people older than 65. Your doctor will likely take two to three blood pressure readings each at three or more separate appointments before diagnosing you with high blood pressure.
This is because blood pressure normally varies throughout the day, and it may be elevated during visits to the doctor (white coat hypertension).
Your blood pressure generally should be measured in both arms to determine if there is a difference. It’s important to use an appropriate-sized arm cuff.
Your doctor may ask you to record your blood pressure at home to provide additional information and confirm if you have high blood pressure.
Your doctor may recommend a 24-hour blood pressure monitoring test called ambulatory blood pressure monitoring to confirm if you have high blood pressure.
The device used for this test measures your blood pressure at regular intervals over a 24-hour period and provides a more accurate picture of blood pressure changes over an average day and night.
However, these devices aren’t available in all medical centers, and they may not be reimbursed. If you have any type of high blood pressure, your doctor will review your medical history and conduct a physical examination.
Your doctor may also recommend routine tests, such as a urine test (urinalysis), blood tests, a cholesterol test, and an electrocardiogram — a test that measures your heart’s electrical activity.
Your doctor may also recommend additional tests, such as an echocardiogram, to check for more signs of heart disease.
Taking your blood pressure at home
An important way to check if your blood pressure treatment is working, to confirm if you have high blood pressure, or to diagnose worsening high blood pressure, is to monitor your blood pressure at home.
Home blood pressure monitors are widely available and inexpensive, and you don’t need a prescription to buy one. Home blood pressure monitoring isn’t a substitute for visits to your doctor, and home blood pressure monitors may have some limitations.
Make sure to use a validated device, and check that the cuff fits. Bring the monitor with you to your doctor’s office to check its accuracy once a year. Talk to your doctor about how to get started with checking your blood pressure at home.
Devices that measure your blood pressure at your wrist or finger aren’t recommended by the American Heart Association.
Blood Pressure Treatment
Diagnosis and treatment
Changing your lifestyle can go a long way toward controlling high blood pressure. Your doctor may recommend you make lifestyle changes including:
- Eating a heart-healthy diet with less salt
- Getting regular physical activity
- Maintaining a healthy weight or losing weight if you’re overweight or obese
- Limiting the amount of alcohol you drink
But sometimes lifestyle changes aren’t enough. In addition to diet and exercise, your doctor may recommend medication to lower your blood pressure.
Your blood pressure treatment goal depends on how healthy you are.
Your blood pressure treatment goal should be less than 130/80 mm Hg if:
- You’re a healthy adult age 65 or older
- You’re a healthy adult younger than age 65 with a 10 percent or higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease in the next 10 years
- You have chronic kidney disease, diabetes or coronary artery disease
Although 120/80 mm Hg or lower is the ideal blood pressure goal, doctors are unsure if you need treatment (medications) to reach that level.
If you’re age 65 or older, and use of medications produces lower systolic blood pressure (such as less than 130 mm Hg), your medications won’t need to be changed unless they cause negative effects to your health or quality of life.
The category of medication your doctor prescribes depends on your blood pressure measurements and your other medical problems. It’s helpful if you work together with a team of medical professionals experienced in providing treatment for high blood pressure to develop an individualized treatment plan.
How to lower Blood Pressure
1. Walk and exercise regularly
Exercise is one of the best things you can do to lower high blood pressure.
Regular exercise helps make your heart stronger and more efficient at pumping blood, which lowers the pressure in your arteries.
In fact, 150 minutes of moderate exercise, such as walking, or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise, such as running, per week can help lower blood pressure and improve your heart health.
What’s more, doing even more exercise reduces your blood pressure even further, according to the National Walkers’ Health Study.
Bottom Line: Walking just 30 minutes a day can help lower your blood pressure. More exercise helps reduce it even further.
2. Reduce your sodium intake
Salt intake is high around the world. In large part, this is due to processed and prepared foods.
For this reason, many public health efforts are aimed at lowering salt in the food industry.
In many studies, salt has been linked to high blood pressure and heart events, like stroke.
However, more recent research indicates that the relationship between sodium and high blood pressure is less clear.
One reason for this may be genetic differences in how people process sodium. About half of people with high blood pressure and a quarter of people with normal levels seem to have a sensitivity to salt.
If you already have high blood pressure, it’s worth cutting back your sodium intake to see if it makes a difference. Swap out processed foods with fresh ones and try seasoning with herbs and spices, rather than salt.
3. Drink less alcohol
Drinking alcohol can raise blood pressure. In fact, alcohol is linked to 16% of high blood pressure cases around the world.
While some research has suggested that low-to-moderate amounts of alcohol may protect the heart, those benefits may be offset by negative effects.
In the US, moderate alcohol consumption is defined as no more than one drink a day for women and two for men. If you drink more than that, cut back.
4. Eat more potassium-rich foods
Potassium is an important mineral.
It helps your body get rid of sodium and ease pressure on your blood vessels.
Modern diets that have increased most people’s sodium intake while decreasing potassium intake.
To get a better balance of potassium to sodium in your diet, focus on eating fewer processed foods and more fresh, whole foods.
Foods that are particularly high in potassium include:
- Vegetables, especially leafy greens, tomatoes, potatoes and sweet potatoes
- Fruit, including melons, bananas, avocados, oranges and apricots
- Dairy, such as milk and yogurt
- Tuna and salmon
- Nuts and seeds
5. Cut back on caffeine
If you’ve ever downed a cup of coffee before you’ve had your blood pressure taken, you’ll know that caffeine causes an instant boost.
However, there’s not a lot of evidence to suggest that drinking caffeine regularly can cause a lasting increase.
In fact, people who drink caffeinated coffee and tea tend to have a lower risk of heart disease, including high blood pressure, than those who don’t.
Caffeine may have a stronger effect on people who don’t consume it regularly.
If you suspect you’re caffeine-sensitive, cut back to see if it lowers your blood pressure.
6. Learn to manage stress
Stress is a key driver of high blood pressure.
When you’re chronically stressed, your body is in a constant fight-or-flight mode. On a physical level, that means a faster heart rate and constricted blood vessels.
When you experience stress, you might also be more likely to engage in other behaviors, such as drinking alcohol or eating unhealthy food, that can negatively affect blood pressure.
Several studies have explored how reducing stress can help lower blood pressure. Here are two evidence-based tips to try:
- Listen to soothing music: Calming music can help relax your nervous system. Research has shown it’s an effective complement to other blood pressure therapies.
- Work less: Working a lot, and stressful work situations in general, are linked to high blood pressure.
7. Eat dark chocolate or cocoa
Here’s a piece of advice you can really get behind.
While eating massive amounts of chocolate probably won’t help your heart, small amounts may.
That’s because dark chocolate and cocoa powder are rich in flavonoids, plant compounds that cause blood vessels to dilate.
A review of studies found that flavonoid-rich cocoa improved several markers of heart health over the short term, including lowering blood pressure.
For the strongest effects, use non-alkalized cocoa powder, which is especially high in flavonoids and has no added sugars.
8. Lose weight
If you’re overweight, losing weight can make a big difference in your heart health.
According to a 2016 study, losing 5% of your body mass could significantly lower high blood pressure.
In previous studies, losing 17 pounds (7.7 kg) was linked to lowering systolic blood pressure by 8.5 mm Hg and diastolic blood pressure by 6.5 mm Hg.
To put that in perspective, a healthy reading should be less than 120/80 mm Hg.
The effect is even greater when weight loss is paired with exercise.
Losing weight can help your blood vessels do a better job of expanding and contracting, making it easier for the left ventricle of the heart to pump blood.
9. Quit smoking
Every puff of cigarette smoke causes a slight, temporary increase in blood pressure. The chemicals in tobacco are also known to damage blood vessels.
Surprisingly, studies haven’t found a conclusive link between smoking and high blood pressure. Perhaps this is because smokers develop a tolerance over time.
Still, since both smoking and high blood pressure raise the risk of heart disease, quitting smoking can help reverse that risk.
10. Cut added sugar and refined carbs
There’s a growing body of research showing a link between added sugar and high blood pressure.
In the Framingham Women’s Health Study, women who drank even one soda per day had higher levels than those who drank less than one soda per day.
Another study found that having one less sugar-sweetened beverage per day was linked to lower blood pressure.
And it’s not just sugar – all refined carbs, such as the kind found in white flour, convert rapidly to sugar in your bloodstream and may cause problems.
Some studies have shown that low-carb diets may also help reduce blood pressure.
One study on people undergoing statin therapy found that those who went on a six-week, carb-restricted diet saw a greater improvement in blood pressure and other heart disease markers than people not on a diet.
11. Eat berries
Berries are full of more than just juicy flavor.
They’re also packed with polyphenols, natural plant compounds that are good for your heart.
One small study had middle-aged people eat berries for eight weeks.
Participants experienced improvements in different markers of heart health, including blood pressure.
Another study assigned people with high blood pressure to a low-polyphenol diet or a high-polyphenol diet containing berries, chocolate, fruits, and vegetables.
Those consuming berries and polyphenol-rich foods experienced improved markers of heart disease risk.
12. Try meditation or deep breathing
While these two behaviors could also fall under “stress reduction techniques,” meditation and deep breathing deserve specific mention.
Both meditation and deep breathing are thought to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This system is engaged when the body relaxes, slowing the heart rate and lowering blood pressure.
There’s quite a bit of research in this area, with studies showing that different styles of meditation appear to have benefits for lowering blood pressure.
Deep breathing techniques can also be quite effective.
In one study, participants were asked to either take six deep breaths over the course of 30 seconds or to simply sit still for 30 seconds. Those who took breaths lowered their blood pressure more than those who just sat.
Try guided meditation or deep breathing. Here’s a video to get you started.
13. Eat calcium-rich foods
While calcium supplements haven’t been conclusively shown to lower blood pressure, calcium-rich diets do seem linked to healthy levels.
For most adults, the calcium recommendation is 1,000 mg per day. For women over 50 and men over 70, it’s 1,200 mg per day.
In addition to dairy, you can get calcium from collard greens and other leafy greens, beans, sardines, and tofu. Here is a complete list.
14. Take natural supplements
Some natural supplements may also help lower blood pressure. Here are some of the main supplements that have evidence behind them:
- Aged garlic extract: Aged garlic extract has been used successfully as a stand-alone treatment and along with conventional therapies for lowering blood pressure.
- Berberine: Traditionally used in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine, berberine may increase nitric oxide production, which helps decrease blood pressure.
- Whey protein: A 2016 study found that whey protein improved blood pressure and blood vessel function in 38 participants.
- Fish oil: Long credited with improving heart health, fish oil may benefit people with high blood pressure the most.
- Hibiscus: Hibiscus flowers make a tasty tea. They’re rich in anthocyanins and polyphenols that are good for your heart and may lower blood pressure.
15. Eat foods rich in magnesium
Magnesium is an important mineral that helps blood vessels relax.
While magnesium deficiency is pretty rare, many people don’t get enough.
Some studies have suggested that getting too little magnesium is linked with high blood pressure, but evidence from clinical studies has been less clear.
Still, eating a magnesium-rich diet is a recommended way to ward off high blood pressure.
You can incorporate magnesium into your diet with vegetables, dairy products, legumes, chicken, meat and whole grains.
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