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Friday, March 23, 2012

"What's got your pressure up?"

What on earth, has got your pressure up? Have you noticed that it seems like high blood pressure is affecting everyone? Is it stress? Genetics? Race or gender? Is it the food we eat? Beverages we drink? How about age? We will discuss the who, what, when, and how's of high blood pressure, and more importantly how to prevent it!

What is High Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure is determined by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries. The more blood your heart pumps and the narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure. High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a common condition. It basically means the force of the blood against your artery walls is high enough that it may eventually cause damage or health problems. Someone can have high blood pressure for years without any symptoms. Uncontrolled high blood pressure increases your risk of serious health problems, including heart attack and stroke. In most cases, High blood pressure develops over many years, and it affects almost everyone eventually. Fortunately, high blood pressure can be easily detected. Once you know you have high blood pressure, you can work with your doctor to control it.

There are two main types of hypertension:

Primary (essential) hypertension- For most adults, there's no identifiable cause of high blood pressure. This type tends to develop gradually over many years.

Secondary hypertension- Some people have high blood pressure caused by an underlying condition. This type tends to appear suddenly and cause higher blood pressure than primary hypertension.

Various conditions and medications can lead to secondary hypertension, including:
-Kidney problems
-Certain defects in blood vessels you're born with
-Certain medications, such as birth control pills, cold remedies, decongestants, over-the-counter pain relievers and some prescription drugs
-Illegal drugs, like cocaine and amphetamines

Do you think you might have hypertension? What do you do? How do you know?

Most people have their blood pressure taken as part of a routine doctor's visit. Ask your doctor for a blood pressure reading at least every two years starting at age 18 (learn & know your numbers). He or she will likely recommend more frequent readings if you've already been diagnosed with high blood pressure or other risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Children age 3 and older will usually have their blood pressure measured as a part of their annual checkups. Although high blood pressure is most common in adults, children are at risk, too. For some children, high blood pressure is caused by problems with the kidneys or heart. But for a growing number of kids, poor lifestyle habits, like an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise, contribute to high blood pressure.

If you don't regularly see your doctor, you may be able to get a free blood pressure screening at a health resource fair or other locations in your community. You can also find machines in some stores, like pharmacies, that will measure your blood pressure for free, but these machines can give you inaccurate results.

Are there any Symptoms to give me a heads up?

No, not really, but some people with early-stage high blood pressure may have dull headaches, dizzy spells or a few more nosebleeds than normal. Keep in mind, these signs and symptoms typically don't occur until high blood pressure has reached a severe, life-threatening stage.

Who usually gets high blood pressure? What are some of the triggers? Am I predisposed to it?

Age. The risk of high blood pressure increases as you age. Through early middle age, high blood pressure is more common in men. Women are more likely to develop high blood pressure after menopause.

Race. High blood pressure is particularly common among blacks, often developing at an earlier age than it does in whites. Serious complications, such as stroke and heart attack, also are more common in blacks.

Family history. High blood pressure tends to run in families.

Being overweight/obese. The more you weigh, the more blood you need to supply oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. As the volume of blood circulated through your blood vessels increases, so does the pressure on your artery walls.

Not being physically active. People who are inactive tend to have higher heart rates. The higher your heart rate, the harder your heart must work with each contraction, and the stronger the force on your arteries. Lack of physical activity also increases the risk of being overweight.

Using tobacco. Not only does smoking or chewing tobacco immediately raise your blood pressure temporarily, but the chemicals in tobacco can damage the lining of your artery walls. This can cause your arteries to narrow, increasing your blood pressure. Secondhand smoke can also increase your blood pressure.

Too much salt (sodium). Too much sodium in your diet can cause your body to retain fluid, which increases blood pressure.

Too little potassium. Potassium helps balance the amount of sodium in your cells. If you don't get enough potassium in your diet or retain enough potassium, you may accumulate too much sodium in your blood.

Too little vitamin D. It's uncertain if having too little vitamin D in your diet can lead to high blood pressure. Vitamin D may affect an enzyme produced by your kidneys that affects your blood pressure.

Drinking too much alcohol. Over time, heavy drinking can damage your heart. Having more than two or three drinks in a sitting can also temporarily raise your blood pressure, as it may cause your body to release hormones that increase your blood flow and heart rate.

Stress. High levels of stress can lead to a temporary, but dramatic, increase in blood pressure. If you try to relax by eating more, using tobacco or drinking alcohol, you may only increase problems with high blood pressure. Instead try yoga with meditation, physical activity that reduces stress!

Certain chronic conditions. Certain chronic conditions also may increase your risk of high blood pressure, including high cholesterol, diabetes, kidney disease and sleep apnea.

*Sometimes pregnancy contributes to high blood pressure, as well.

So what can you do?

High blood pressure, can affect anyone, you and/or someone you know. Honestly, there are some things you can't change; age, race, and family history. But if you know your numbers and your family history, eat right, live a healthy-active lifestyle, reduce stress, limit alcohol, cut tobacco; you'll be off to a good start preventing high blood pressure.

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