High Blood Pressure

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    High blood pressure can be caused by one or a combination of factors.

    • Family history: Immediate family who has high blood, heart disease or has had a stroke. African American.
    • Current Medical Condition: Overweight. Age 60 or over. Cholesterol level over 200. Diabetes, kidney disease, or heart disease.
    • Life Style: Smoker. No regular exercise. High stress. Excessive alcohol consumption. Salty, hi fat diet.

    Often high blood pressure is undetectable to the patient. It is known as the silent killer. Unless checked with a blood pressure machine (sphygmomanometer) you may never know you have high blood pressure. If however blood pressure is consistently high, over time it eventually causes changes in arterial walls. Arteries can thicken and the opening within the artery can become narrowed. This decreases the ability of these arteries to carry blood throughout the body. It also increases the workload of the heart to pump blood throughout the body. It can eventually damage heart muscle.

    Prolonged hypertension can cause blindness, stroke, or even heart attack. It can also lead to kidney or heart failure.

    Blood pressure should be checked at least once a year and more frequently if you've been diagnosed with hypertension. Normal blood pressure should be below 130 systolic and below 85diastolic. Systolic is the pressure in your arteries when your heart is contracting and diastolic is the pressure in your arteries when your heart is at rest. Consistently high reading of over 140 systolic or over 90 diastolic is considered high blood pressure. Blood pressure can change with activities throughout the day. Systolic pressure can rise with exercise or stress and then return to normal when at rest.

    On an annual exam a physician or practitioner may order blood work or EKG to determine heart health. If blood pressure is found to be high over several different readings, a physician may suggest life style changes initially. Lower salt intake, eliminate hi fat/greasy foods, start with a moderate exercise program and smoking cessation.

    If lifestyle changes aren't enough, your physician may prescribe medication. It is important that a medication schedule be maintained. Try to take your medication at the same time each day. Use a pillbox so you don't miss a dose. If you do miss a dose call your pharmacist or physician to advise you what to do. Some of the types of medications used are: Diuretics (water pill) Beta blockers ACE inhibitors Angiotensin ll blockers

    The American Heart Association has more information on this and others topics.

    Works cited: JNC Vl Guidelines


    Stony Brook Medicine Heart Institute

    For additional information, please call (631) 444-4000.