High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a medical condition that over time can lead to serious and potentially life-threatening complications. Blood pressure is the amount of force that the blood places on the walls of your veins and arteries as it moves through the body. When it’s too high, it can put stress on the arteries and ultimately damage them. The complications that are related to high blood pressure include heart disease, stroke and kidney failure, among others.
An ideal blood pressure reading is to have a systolic pressure, or top number, of less than 120, and a diastolic pressure, or bottom number, of less than 80. If blood pressure gets higher than that, you begin to run the risk of complications over time. High blood pressure rarely presents any signs or symptoms. That’s why it’s often called “the silent killer,” and getting it checked regularly is important.
Causes of High Blood Pressure
Anyone can get high blood pressure, but there are certain factors that can put you at a greater risk. These include smoking, obesity, inactivity or medical conditions such as diabetes. Your diet can play a role in high blood pressure, too, and some people can get high blood pressure due to eating too much salt in their diet. Excessive alcohol use is also linked to high blood pressure.
Prevention and Treatment
In many cases, high blood pressure can be prevented and treated by making healthy lifestyle modifications. These include regular exercise, eating a healthy diet that’s low in sodium, not smoking, limiting alcohol use, keeping weight at a healthy level and managing diabetes. There are also medications that can help to manage blood pressure that can be prescribed by a doctor. Finally, it’s important to get your blood pressure checked regularly to make sure it’s at a healthy level.
SOURCES: National Institutes of Health: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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