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What is High Blood Pressure and Tips for Management

October 21, 2014
Cropped view of nurse putting hands on grey haired man, measuring blood pressure

Having high blood pressure is one of the main causes of both heart disease and stroke, as well as other health issues such as kidney disease, congestive heart failure and blindness. It is especially dangerous because most people don’t know they have high blood pressure until they discover a health problem. If your loved one has been diagnosed with high blood pressure, here is some helpful information on high blood pressure, its causes, symptoms and how you can help your loved one.

What is High Blood Pressure?
Blood pressure is the measurement of the force of blood against the artery walls. This measurement is given as two numbers, the higher number on top, and the lower number on the bottom. The higher number is called systolic blood pressure, which measures the pressure of the heart as it contracts and pushes blood out to the body. The lower number is called diastolic pressure and measures the pressure of the heart as it relaxes. Our blood pressure rises and falls throughout the day. If someone’s blood pressure remains 140/90 or higher for an extended period of time, though, they are considered to have high blood pressure. Having high blood pressure means the heart has to work harder to pump blood through the body. The arteries then become stiff which restricts blood flow.

High blood pressure happens for a number of reasons, many of which are preventable. Risk factors include:

  • Genetic factors
  • Age
  • Being overweight
  • Excess salt or sodium in your diet
  • Lack of exercise
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Stress
  • Diabetes

High blood pressure is so dangerous because there are often no symptoms or warning signs until a heart attack, stroke, or other health issue happens. This is why everyone should check their blood pressure frequently, especially since high blood pressure becomes more common with age. Some people with high blood pressure do have some symptoms such as:

  • Headaches
  • Shortness of breath
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness

What can you do?
Although high blood pressure is dangerous, it is also manageable. Help your loved one lower their blood pressure by:

  • Encouraging a healthy diet low in fat and high in fruits and vegetables
  • Reducing the amount of salt and sodium in their diet
  • Maintaining a healthy weight and BMI below 25
  • Being physically active
  • Limiting their alcohol intake
  • Not smoking
  • Medications