High Blood Pressure Can Cause Serious Problems | The Spectrum

High Blood Pressure Can Cause Serious Problems | The Spectrum

By: Kristy Ann Pike,

Nearly one in three adults suffers from high blood pressure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What is high blood pressure? Blood pressure measures the force of circulating blood on the walls of blood vessels. It is typically stated in two numbers. The first number, called the systolic pressure, measures the force as the heart contracts. The second number, called diastolic pressure, measures the force when the heart is at rest.

Diastolic pressure is created by the elasticity of the blood vessels that keeps the blood moving forward when the heart rests for microseconds each heart beat to get the energy it needs to keep functioning. Systolic 120 and diastolic 80 is considered a normal blood pressure. High blood pressure is divided into stages: prehypertension (120-139/80-89) and hypertension (greater than 140/90). Hypertension is a primary factor in heart disease and stroke.

Dr. Aarush Manchanda, FACC of Intermountain Valley View Heart Clinic in Cedar City explains BP in simple terms.

"Think of watering your garden," he said. "The pump is like your heart. The hose is like your arteries, and the fluid is like your blood. When you have high blood pressure, there is probably something going on in the pump, the plumbing, or the fluid itself."

Have you ever pinched a hose in order to get more pressure? Blood vessels work the same way. When hormones, cold, anxiety, smoking, obesity or other things cause the vessels to narrow, blood pressure goes up. In some instances a vessel may even burst.

"This is the most common cause of stroke," Manchanda said.

Pressure also goes up when you have more fluid.

"Too much salt or sodium in your diet, pain pills, oral contraceptives, licorice and alcohol can all cause you to retain water and make your blood pressure rise," Manchanda said.

Kidney disease can also affect BP.

"If your filters get clogged up, they can't move the water through and balance the amount of salt in the body," Manchanda said. Not only can kidney problems cause high blood pressure, "the reverse is also true."

Manchanda uses the acronym MAWDS to explain lifestyle changes that can help prevent high blood pressure:

Medication. Take any blood pressure medications prescribed by your physician.

Activity. Regular exercise strengthens the heart and releases hormones that tone the arteries and help them relax.

Weight. Keeping your weight down prevents diabetes and sleep apnea, as well as low oxygen content in the blood.

Diet. Reducing your sodium intake and following a diet rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, fat-free or low-fat milk products, fish and poultry, beans, seeds, and nuts, can lower your systolic blood pressure by an average of 11 points.

Smoking/stress. If you smoke, stop. Look for ways to lower your stress levels, including lifestyle changes and relaxation techniques like yoga or meditation.

There are some times when a slightly elevated blood pressure is not necessarily a bad thing. For instance, the elderly sometimes develop orthostatic hypotension: a sudden drop in blood pressure that happens when you stand.

"In those folks we sometimes allow permissive hypertension,' and don't treat elevated blood pressure quite as aggressively," Manchanda said.

Finally, a single elevated blood pressure reading is not enough to warrant a diagnosis of high blood pressure.

"I encourage people to take their blood pressure when they are relaxed and to keep a journal of several readings," Manchanda said.

Dixie Regional Medical Center will host a heart health education seminar from 10 a.m. 40 noon March 7. The seminar will take place at the Foremaster Auditorium, 1424 E. Foremaster Drive, St. George. For more information contact MaryAnn Covington at 251-1895.

Living Well represents a collaboration between healthcare professionals, The Foundation of Dixie Regional Medical Center - a nonprofit hospital, and The Spectrum. Contact 251-2108 for more information.

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