Hypertension

Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of the blood vessels. When your blood pressure is measured, you will notice that the measurement is given in two separate numbers, 110/70 for instance. The top number refers to the pressure in your arteries when your heart is pumping (systolic pressure). The lower number refers to the pressure in your arteries when the heart is resting (diastolic). Blood pressure changes throughout the day depending on your activity, stress level, diet, and other factors.

High blood pressure or hypertension is usually defined as blood pressure greater than 140/90 that fails to come down regardless of your activity.

Too much sodium (commonly found in table salt) can aggravate high blood pressure by causing your body to retain fluid. This fluid can make it harder for the heart to pump effectively. If you suffer from hypertension, you will probably be advised to cut down on added salt and avoid high sodium foods.

Regular aerobic exercise has been shown to help lower blood pressure as well as raise levels of “protective” HDL cholesterol (the kind that carries artery clogging cholesterol out of the blood).

If you smoke, STOP! Smoking not only raises blood pressure, but also damages arterial walls. Smoking is also linked to higher levels of artery-clogging cholesterol.

The importance of regular blood pressure screenings can not be over emphasized. For those who suffer from high blood pressure, check-ups can help track your progress, evaluate your treatment, and motivate you to continue your blood pressure control program.

If other lifestyle changes fail to lower your blood pressure to safe levels, your doctor may prescribe daily medication. Take your medication faithfully. If you experience side effects, do not stop your medication. Instead, notify your physician who can recommend an alternate type of medication.

Mid-Atlantic Surgical Associates: Cardiac, Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery and Medicine