AP NEWS

High Blood Pressure

February 12, 2019

About a third of American adults have high blood pressure, and they often don’t know it until getting tested at their doctor’s office.

High blood pressure, or hypertension, doesn’t have any symptoms, but it can be a contributing factor in heart disease and stroke, two of the leading causes of death for American adults, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

When your doctor takes your blood pressure, you get two measurements. Systolic blood pressure, which is the upper number, measures the pressure in your blood vessels when your heart is beating. The lower number is diastolic pressure, and it measures the pressure in blood vessels when your heart rests between beats. Normal blood pressure is 120/80. A measurement of 140/90 is considered high blood pressure.

Causes

There’s not an easy answer for that. Hypertension usually develops gradually and often is influenced by lifestyle choices, such as not eating a healthy diet, not getting enough exercise or using tobacco. Health conditions like obesity or being overweight can contribute to high blood pressure as well. Age and genetics can also be a factor as well.

A related condition, secondary hypertension, can be caused by conditions like kidney problems, genetic defects, thyroid problems or even medications to treat other conditions. This type of hypertension tends to appear suddenly and lead to higher blood pressure than primary hypertension.

Treatment

Although not everyone is able to prevent high blood pressure, many people can make changes to their daily lives to reduce the risk of high blood pressure. Eating a diet that’s low in salt, saturated and trans fats and dietary cholesterol and high in fruits and vegetables, whole grains and fiber can lower your risk, as well as contributing to a maintaining a healthy weight. Getting enough exercise, which for most people is at least 30 minutes a day of walking, running, biking, swimming, yoga or hiking, also helps. If you’re not exercising regularly now, ease into it with short walks, stretching and other low-impact exercises.

Many people also can control high blood pressure through these lifestyle factors. For those who can’t, talk to your doctor about medications and what treatment is best to keep your blood pressure down.

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