Heart Disease and High Blood Pressure

Heart Disease and High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is a major risk factor for heart disease, kidney disease, stroke, and heart failure.

What Blood Pressure Is Considered Too High?

A blood pressure of 130/80 or higher is considered high. This is called hypertension

A blood pressure between 120 and 129 and less than 80 is considered elevated. This means that you do not have hypertension, but you may develop it in the future unless you adopt lifestyle changes to keep your blood pressure under control.

How Can I Prevent High Blood Pressure?

You can prevent high blood pressure by:

These changes are also recommended for treating high blood pressure, although medicine is often added as part of the treatment.

How Is Blood Pressure Related to Weight?

As your body weight increases, your blood pressure can rise. In fact, being overweight can make you more likely to develop high blood pressure than if you are at your desirable weight. About 70% of adults in the United States are overweight. You can reduce your risk of high blood pressure by losing weight. Even small amounts of weight loss can make a big difference in helping to prevent and treat high blood pressure.

How Can I Lose Weight?

To lose weight, you need to eat fewer calories than you burn. But don’t go on a crash diet to see how quickly you can lose those pounds. The healthiest and longest-lasting weight loss happens when you do it slowly, losing 1/2 to 1 pound a week. By cutting back by 500 calories/day, by eating less and being more physically active, you can lose about one pound in a week.

Here are some tips to help you lose weight and get on the road to healthy eating:

How Can I Reduce My Intake of Salt?

Americans eat more salt and other forms of sodium than they need. Often, when people with high blood pressure cut back on salt, their blood pressure falls. Cutting back on salt also prevents blood pressure from rising. Some people, like African-Americans and the elderly, may be more affected by sodium than others. Since there’s really no practical way to predict exactly who will be affected by sodium, it makes sense for everyone to limit intake of salt to help prevent high blood pressure.

All Americans, especially people with high blood pressure, should eat less than 2,300 milligrams of sodium daily. That’s about 1 teaspoon of table salt. But remember to keep track of ALL salt eaten — including that in processed foods and salt added during cooking or at the table.

You can teach your taste buds to enjoy less salty foods. Here are a few tips:

A research study called the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) showed that you can reduce your blood pressure by eating foods rich in grains, fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products.

How Much Alcohol Can I Drink if I Have High Blood Pressure?

Drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure. It may also lead to the development of high blood pressure. So to help prevent high blood pressure, if you drink alcohol, limit how much you drink to no more than two drinks a day if you are male. The “Dietary Guidelines for Americans” recommend that for overall health, women and lighter weight persons should limit their alcohol to no more than one drink a day.

This is what counts as a drink:

You may have heard that some alcohol is good for your heart. Some studies suggest that people who consume a drink or two a day have lower blood pressure and live longer than those who consume excessive amounts of alcohol or no alcohol at all. Others note that wine raises the “good” (HDL) blood cholesterol that prevents the build-up of fats in the arteries.

While these studies may be correct, they don’t tell the whole story. Too much alcohol contributes to a host of other health problems, such as motor vehicle accidents, diseases of the liver and pancreas, damage to the brain and heart, an increased risk of many cancers, and fetal alcohol syndrome. Alcohol is also high in calories. So you should limit how much you drink.

Can Caffeine Affect my Blood Pressure?

The caffeine in drinks like coffee, tea, and sodas may cause blood pressure to go up, but only temporarily. In a short time your blood pressure will go back down. Unless you are sensitive to caffeine and your blood pressure does not go down, you do not have to limit caffeine to avoid developing high blood pressure.

Can Stress Affect Blood Pressure?

Yes. Stress can make blood pressure go up for a while and over time may contribute to the cause of high blood pressure. There are many steps you can take to reduce your stress. The article on easing stress will get you started.

What About High Blood Pressure Drugs?

If you have high blood pressure, the lifestyle changes mentioned above may not be enough to lower your pressure. Your doctor may recommend adding medication.

Many people with hypertension need more than one drug to lower their blood pressure. The types of high blood pressure drugs include:

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