Hypertension is the medical term for high blood pressure. The average person's blood pressure rises and falls throughout the day, but a person with hypertension has blood pressure that stays elevated over time. High blood pressure is dangerous because it makes the heart work too hard and increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. Over time, high blood pressure can also lead to congestive heart failure, kidney disease, and blindness. The likelihood of hypertension increases significantly with age.
Hypertension is diagnosed by measuring a person's blood pressure level. Although both numbers in a blood pressure reading – systolic (top number) and diastolic (bottom number) – are important, systolic pressure provides the most accurate diagnosis of high blood pressure in people age 50 or older. The normal systolic level is less than 120 millimeters of mercury (mmHg). Persons with a systolic reading of 120 to 139 have prehypertension, a precursor to hypertension. Even though people with this condition are not considered to have high blood pressure, they are likely to develop it in the future unless they adopt a healthier lifestyle. Any systolic blood pressure level of 140 mmHg or higher is classified as hypertension.
You and your physician can work together to reduce your blood pressure. It can be helpful for you to monitor your blood pressure at home between visits with your doctor so you remain on track for reaching the target blood pressure you and your physician select. In addition, given that blood pressure rises as your body weight increases, losing weight can help decrease blood pressure, especially for those who are overweight and already have hypertension.
Healthy eating can both reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure and lower a blood pressure that is already too high. To reduce your blood pressure, you should eat foods that are low in saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol. Include plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet, and eat low-fat, dairy foods. Restricting salt and sodium in your diet is also important.
One of the most important ways to prevent or control high blood pressure is to become physically active, either through something as basic as household chores or more organized outlets like sporting activities. Examples of appropriate physical activities include brisk walking, bicycling, raking leaves, and gardening.
If you have high blood pressure, losing weight, eating right, and exercising may or may not be sufficient in lowering your blood pressure. There are many drugs available to lower blood pressure, but even if you take them, you still need to make healthy lifestyle changes. Doing so will help the drugs work better, possibly reducing the dosage you need. Source: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
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