High blood pressure, or hypertension, occurs when the heart pumps blood too forcefully throughout the body. The more forcefully the blood pumps through the arteries, the more the arteries have to stretch to allow the blood to flow. If the arteries stretch too much, this can cause them to become damaged and become less elastic. This can cause a variety of problems including increasing a person’s risk for having a heart attack or stroke. Therefore, maintaining blood pressure at a healthy level or reducing blood pressure if elevated can be essential to decreasing risks of developing these conditions.
Oftentimes, many people have high blood pressure for years without knowing it, which is why this disease is called a “silent killer.”
There are a variety of factors that can increase a person’s risk for developing this disease, such as genetics, age, gender, overweight or obesity, smoking, high cholesterol, and physical inactivity.
Visit the American Heart Association for more information on High Blood Pressure.
The American Heart Association recommends several lifestyle changes to keep blood pressure at healthy level or reduce blood pressure if is high. Making changes such as quitting smoking, increasing physical activity, and eating a pattern of nutrient rich foods that include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and low-fat dairy, can be helpful. The Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating pattern has been shown to reduce blood pressure in individuals. Some individuals may require medication in addition to a healthful eating pattern and increased physical activity.
In addition, reducing sodium in eating may help some individuals lower blood pressure. Visit the American Heart Association for more information about sodium in foods. Or check out the USDA’s 10 Tips to Cut Back on Sodium handout.
Blood Pressure Management for Heart Health (pdf)
American Heart Association
High Blood Pressure – Medline Plus
10 Year Risk Calculator – National Blood, Lung, and Heart Institute
American Heart Association – Prevention and Treatment of High Blood Pressure
Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Eating Pattern
USDA 10 Tips to Cut Back on Salt & Sodium handout
1. What is High Blood Pressure? American Heart Association website. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/AboutHighBloodPressure/What-is-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_301759_Article.jsp. Reviewed August 4, 2014. Accessed August 12, 2015.
2. Prevention and Treatment of High Blood Pressure. American Heart Association website. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/PreventionTreatmentofHighBloodPressure/Prevention-Treatment-of-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_002054_Article.jsp. Reviewed August 4, 2014. Accessed August 12, 2015.