High Blood Pressure - Risk Factors

Blood pressure is the force of the blood pushing against the walls of the arteries. Each time the heart beats, it pumps blood through the arteries. Your blood pressure is at its highest when the heart beats, forcing blood into the arteries. This is called systolic pressure. When the heart is at rest, between beats, your blood pressure falls. This is the diastolic pressure.

Blood pressure is always given as two numbers, the systolic and diastolic pressures. Both are important. The systolic pressure is the first or top number, and the diastolic pressure is the second or bottom number (for example, 120/80). If your blood pressure is 120/80, you say that it is "120 over 80".

Risk factors are behaviours or conditions that can increase your chances of developing a disease. For example, high blood pressure is a risk factor for:
¢ heart disease,
¢ stroke,
¢ dementia,
¢ congestive heart failure,
¢ kidney disease, and,
¢ blindness.

However, high blood pressure isn't the only risk factor. For example, there are other risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Most can be modified, though some cannot. The more risk factors you have, the greater your chances of developing disease. So it is important to take steps to prevent or control these risk factors.
The following heart disease and stroke risk factors can be controlled are through changes in life-style and changes in diet:
¢ High blood pressure (hypertension),
¢ Abnormal cholesterol,
¢ Tobacco use,
¢ Diabetes,
¢ Overweight, and,
¢ Physical inactivity.

Women taking oral contraceptives experience a small but detectable increase in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, usually in the normal range.

The following heart disease and stroke risk factors are beyond your control:
¢ Age - 55 years and older for men, and 65 years or older for women.

¢ Family history of early heart disease or family history of stroke. For example, having a mother or sister who has been diagnosed with heart disease before age 65, or a father or brother diagnosed before age 55.

¢ Race. For example, high blood pressure occurs more often among African Americans than whites. It also begins at an earlier age and is usually more severe. Further, African Americans have a higher death rate from stroke and kidney disease than whites.

The good news is, treatment can control high blood pressure. In addition, lifestyle changes can prevent and control high blood pressure. These include losing weight if overweight (losing even 10 lbs can help), increasing physical activity (walking 30 minutes per day can help), following a healthy eating plan, that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and low fat dairy foods, choosing and preparing foods with less salt and sodium, and if you drink alcoholic beverages, drinking in moderation. If lifestyle changes alone are not effective in keeping your blood pressure controlled, there are now a wide range of blood pressure medications that can help you.

To find out if you have high blood pressure consult your doctor and have a blood pressure test. The test is quick and painless.

Blood Pressure Guide


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