Getting Heart Healthy For The Holidays:
Managing Your Blood Pressure
We think of high blood pressure as something that increases with stress and the holiday season has lots of triggers! This condition is actually a silent enemy. It affects one in four adults, generally with no symptoms, and is a major risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and death. In her continued effort to focus on getting heart healthy for the holidays, Dr. Donnica discusses what high blood pressure is, how to reduce it, how to manage it, and why this is very important for you and your family members.
What is High Blood Pressure?
In its simplest terms, high blood pressure ("hypertension") is a condition in which the pressure of the blood traveling through the arteries is higher than normal. This increased force can damage the walls of the circulatory system and make the heart and several other organs work harder and become damaged in the process. High blood pressure is a silent process with potentially serious consequences that affects 40 to 60 million American adults- half of whom may not even be aware of it! The good news is that hypertension is simple to diagnose and can be effectively treated with lifestyle modifications and medicine.
Hypertension affects women and men equally (although men are more likely to be affected at a younger age; women are more likely to be affected over age 59). Hypertension and its management account for the most common reason for medical visits (two-thirds by women) and total prescription drug sales in the United States.
There are several types of high blood pressure, but the two general categories are essential hypertension and secondary hypertension. Essential hypertension has no known cause and accounts for nearly nine out of ten cases of high blood pressure. Secondary hypertension may be caused by a host of other conditions including kidney diseases, diabetes, Cushing's disease, thyroid or other autoimmune diseases, adrenal conditions, neurologic conditions, blood vessel abnormalities, and drug side effects or drug abuse.
To measure blood pressure, a rubber cuff is quickly inflated around your upper arm and two points are measured with a stethoscope: the systolic pressure (the "top number") and the diastolic pressure (the "bottom number"). The systolic pressure measures the pressure while your heart is beating (the pressure your heart has to work against to pump the blood). The diastolic pressure measures the pressure while your heart is resting between beats. The higher the numbers, the higher your risk for disease.