Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of your arteries, which carry blood from your heart to other parts of your body. Blood pressure normally rises and falls throughout the day. But if it stays high for a long time, it can damage your heart and lead to health problems. High blood pressure1 raises your risk for heart disease and stroke, which are leading causes of death in the United States.2 Jay Harold has written a post,”5 Behaviors That Increase Your Risk for High Blood Pressure,” that gives practical advice about this deadly disease.
Black Americans should pay close attention to their blood pressure since over 40 Percent of men/women aged 20 and over have high blood pressure3.
High blood pressure has no warning signs or symptoms, and many people do not know they have it. The only way to know if you have it is to measure your blood pressure. Then you can take steps to control it if it is too high.
What Blood Pressure Numbers Mean4
Blood pressure is measured using two numbers. The first number, called systolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart beats. The second number, called diastolic blood pressure, measures the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart rests between beats.
If the measurement reads 120 systolic and 80 diastolic, you would say “120 over 80” or write “120/80 mmHg.”
The chart below shows normal, at-risk, and high blood pressure levels. Blood pressure less than 120/80 mmHg is normal. A blood pressure of 140/90 mmHg or more is too high. People with levels in between 120/80 and 140/90 have a condition called prehypertension, which means they are at high risk for high blood pressure.
|Normal||systolic: less than 120 mmHg
diastolic: less than 80mmHg
|At risk (prehypertension)||systolic: 120–139 mmHg
diastolic: 80–89 mmHg
|High||systolic: 140 mmHg or higher
diastolic: 90 mmHg or higher
High Blood Pressure Signs and Symptoms
High blood pressure is called the “silent killer” because it often has no warning signs or symptoms, and many people do not know they have it.
Rarely, high blood pressure can cause symptoms like headaches or vomiting.
There’s only one way to know whether you have high blood pressure—have a doctor or other health professional measure it. Measuring your blood pressure is quick and painless.
Effects of High Blood Pressure5
High blood pressure can damage your health in many ways. It can seriously hurt important organs like your heart and brain.
Fortunately, you can control your blood pressure to lower your risk for serious health problems.
Decreased Blood Flow to the Heart
High blood pressure can harden your arteries, which decreases the flow of blood and oxygen to your heart and lead to heart disease. In addition, decreased blood flow to the heart can cause:
- Chest pain also called angina.
- Heart failure, a condition when your heart can’t pump enough blood and oxygen to your other organs.
- Heart attack, which occurs when the blood supply to your heart is blocked, and heart muscle begins to die without enough oxygen. The longer the blood flow is blocked, the greater the damage to the heart.
High blood pressure can burst or block arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the brain, causing a stroke. Brain cells die during a stroke because they do not get enough oxygen. Stroke can cause serious disabilities in speech, movement, and other basic activities, and a stroke can kill you.
Stroke6 is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States and is a major cause of serious disability for adults. About 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke each year.
Stroke is preventable. You may be able to prevent stroke or lower your chances of having a stroke.
Stroke is treatable. Learn the signs of stroke, and call 9-1-1 right away if you think someone might be having a stroke. Getting fast treatment is important in preventing death and disability from stroke.
Adults with diabetes, high blood pressure, or both have a higher risk of developing chronic kidney disease than those without these diseases. Approximately 1 of 3 adults with diabetes and 1 of 5 adults with high blood pressure have chronic kidney disease.
5 Behaviors That Increase Risk for High Blood Pressure7
The good news is that healthy behaviors can lower your risk for high blood pressure.
A diet that is too high in sodium and too low in potassium puts you at risk for high blood pressure.
Eating too much sodium—an element in table salt—increases blood pressure. Most of the sodium we eat comes from processed and restaurant foods.
Not eating enough potassium also can increase blood pressure. Potassium is found in bananas, potatoes, beans, and yogurt.
Not getting enough physical activity can make you gain weight, which can lead to high blood pressure.
Obesity is excess body fat. Obesity is linked to higher “bad” cholesterol and triglyceride levels and to lower “good” cholesterol levels. In addition to high blood pressure, obesity can also lead to heart disease and diabetes. Talk to your health care team about a plan to reduce your weight to a healthy level.
Too Much Alcohol
Drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure.
- Women should have no more than 1 drink a day.
- Men should have no more than 2 drinks a day.
Tobacco use increases your risk for high blood pressure. Cigarette smoking can damage the heart and blood vessels. Also, nicotine raises blood pressure, and carbon monoxide reduces the amount of oxygen that your blood can carry.
Controlling Blood Pressure8
You can make changes to your lifestyle that will help you control your blood pressure. Your doctor might prescribe medications that can help you. By controlling your blood pressure, you will lower your risk for the harmful effects of high blood pressure.
Work with Your Health Care Team
A team-based care that includes you, your doctor and other healthcare providers can help reduce and control blood pressure.
If you already have high blood pressure, your doctor may prescribe medications and lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes are just as important as medications. Follow your doctor’s instructions and stay on your medications. Do not stop taking your medications before talking to your doctor or pharmacist.
All drugs may have side effects, so talk to your doctor regularly. As your blood pressure improves, your doctor will check it often.
Make Lifestyle Changes
Lifestyle changes can help you control your blood pressure.
- Diet. Eat a healthy diet that is:
- Low in salt (sodium), total fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol.
- High in fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Be active. Try taking a brisk 10-minute walk 3 times a day 5 days a week.
- Do not smoke. If you smoke, quit as soon as possible. Visit Smokefree.gov for tips on quitting.
These lifestyle changes for blood pressure control are similar to those for preventing high blood pressure.
Jay Harold hopes that you enjoyed this post, ” 5 Behaviors That Increase Your Risk for High Blood Pressure.” Please share it with others. Jay Harold has put together a Resource page that you may find useful when trying to improve your health and wealth. Please take this advice from Muhammad Ali and give back to others. “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”