By: Kathy

There is no ‘ideal’ blood pressure reading. However, there is a range of ‘normal’ blood pressure reading. Generally, a reading that is less than 140 over 90 indicates that you don’t need to worry. If either, or both, numbers are equal to or greater than 140 over 90 for an extended period of time, you have high blood pressure, or hypertension.

Hypertension is dangerous because it causes the heart to work extra hard. This strain contributes to heart attacks and stroke. When the heart is forced to work extra hard for an extended period of time it tends to enlarge. A slightly enlarged heart can function well, but a significantly enlarged heart cannot. High blood pressure also causes damage to the arteries, causing arterial disease.

Hypertension can be treated. Mild cases of hypertension can be treated through behavior modification like changing diet and exercise. More severe cases of hypertension require medications like diuretics and beta blockers. Diuretics rid the body of excess fluids and salt. Beta blockers reduce the heart rate and the heart’s output of blood.

Understanding Hypertension

Nearly one in four Americans has hypertension. Hypertension is a dangerous condition that may lead to heart attack, stroke or kidney failure. To help you control blood pressure, it is important to understand what blood pressure is, what causes it to rise, what the risk factors are, and how you can prevent it.

Hypertension occurs when arterioles, small blood vessels that branch off from the arteries, become constricted making it difficult for blood to pass through them. As a result, blood pressure rises causing your heart to work harder. If your blood pressure at rest stays at 140/90 or more, you may have hypertension.

If you have hypertension, a physician can help you manage the condition effectively. Unfortunately, hypertension usually presents no clear symptoms. Some people may experience headaches or dizziness in the morning, but, for most, there are no symptoms at all. The easiest and most reliable way to find out if you have hypertension is to have your blood pressure checked regularly.

Risk Factors

You may be at greater risk for high blood pressure if you:

  • Have a history of hypertension in your family
  • Have a pre-existing condition such as diabetes or kidney disease
  • Are a male
  • Are of African-American descent
  • Are over 35 years of age
  • Smoke
  • Are obese
  • Are taking oral contraceptives
  • Frequently consume alcoholic beverages
  • Lead a sedentary lifestyle

Tips For Lowering Your Blood Pressure

Most people can adopt simple lifestyle changes to prevent hypertension. We recommend the following:

  • Have your blood pressure checked regularly
  • Eat nutritious foods including whole grains and fresh fruits and vegetables
  • If your doctor has prescribed medication to help lower your blood pressure, take it as directed.
  • Maintain your ideal body weight.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Stop smoking.
  • Manage stress through relaxation techniques, exercise and development of positive attitude.
  • Cut down on added salt and avoid high sodium foods such as chips, processed meats, fast food, cured or smoked products and prepared foods.
  • Limit your daily cholesterol intake to no more than 100 mg per 1000 calories of food.
  • Restrict saturated fat to no more than 10 percent of daily calories.
  • If you dine out frequently think carefully about your food choices.
  • French and Mexican food tends to be high in fat. Chinese food often is high in sodium. Always look for fresh ingredients cooked lightly with little sauce.
  • When reading food labels, beware of the following ingredients which are other terms for sodium: sodium chloride, salt, MSG, some antacids, soy sauce, baking soda, monosodium, teriyaki sauce, baking powder, Na (Chemical symbol).

The Best Heart Test

A simple blood test can reveal your risk of heart attack and stroke, as well as other ills, says Mark A. Hyman, M.d., coauthor ofUltraprevention: The 6-Week Plan That Will Make You Healthy for Life. Ask your doctor to measure your level of homocysteine, an amino acid. A normal reading is between 6 and 8; anything higher means you are at increased risk, Dr. Hyman says. But you can lower it, he adds, by taking daily B-complex vitamin with 800 mcg. of folic acid, 25 mg. of B6 and 500 mcg of B12.

This article is for informational purposes only. Consult your physician for proper medical care.

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