istock blood pressure2.jpgWhat is blood pressure?
When your heart beats, it pumps blood into your arteries and creates pressure in them.  This pressure (blood pressure) causes your blood to flow to all parts of your body.  Healthy arteries are muscular and elastic. They stretch when your heart pumps blood through them. How much they stretch depends on how much force the blood exerts.
Your heart normally beats 60-80 times a minute. Blood pressure then rises with the squeeze of the heart and falls with its relaxation. Your blood pressure can change from minute to minute with changes in posture, exercise or sleeping. Two numbers are recorded when measuring your blood pressure (for example 118/74). The top number is the pressure as
the heart squeezes (systolic) and the bottom as your heart rests (diastolic).
What are the levels of blood pressure?
In 2003 The Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure issued new guidelines. These guidelines aid in earlier detection and treatment of high blood pressure.
<120 and <80
120-139 or 80-89
Hypertension, Stage 1
140-159 or 90-99
Hypertension, Stage 2
>160 or >100
Risk factors that may lead to high blood pressure:
1.    Obesity- People with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater are more likely to develop high blood pressure.
2.    Eating too much salt- This increases blood pressure in some people.
3.    Alcohol- Heavy and regular use of alcohol can increase blood pressure dramatically.
4.    Lack of exercise- Inactivity makes it easier to become overweight.
5.    Stress- Hormones released in times of stress have been shown to also cause an increase in blood pressure.
6.    Race- African Americans develop high blood pressure more often than Caucasians and it tends to be earlier and more severe.
7.    Heredity- A tendency to have high blood pressure runs in families. If your parents or other close blood relatives have it, you’re more likely to develop it.
8.    Age- In general the older you get, the greater your chance of developing high blood pressure. It occurs most often in men between 35-50 and women after menopause.
How can I control my blood pressure?
Eating for Health
Many people with high blood pressure are also overweight. For these people, losing weight can improve their blood pressure. Eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grain breads and cereals is a great start. Also important is limiting fats, sweets, sugary drinks, alcohol and salty foods.
Exercise and Recreation
Physical activity should be part of your daily schedule. Your doctor can prescribe the best exercise program for you, but at minimum it is recommended to get 30 minutes of moderate activity on most days.
Some people need medication to help reduce their high blood pressure. Many drugs are available for this. Some get rid of excess fluid. Others open narrowed blood vessels. Another group prevents blood vessels from constricting and narrowing. It is important to follow the directions given to you by your doctor and to report any side effects that you have.