HOUSTON--(What is hypertension? As many as 72 million Americans have high blood pressure or hypertension, meaning that their blood travels through their arteries at a pressure too high for good health. A temporary rise in blood pressure is a normal response to stress or physical exertion. But people with hypertension have high blood pressure at rest, which is extremely dangerous. Left untreated, hypertension can lead to stroke, heart failure, kidney damage and retinopathy.)--
High blood pressure is a sign that your heart is working harder than normal. The arteries become less elastic, making them susceptible to arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and atherosclerosis (clogged arteries). Narrowed vessels make it easier for clots to form. If a clot blocks blood flow to the heart or brain, a heart attack or stroke can occur. Know the warning signs for heart attack and stroke.
Hypertension is often called the “silent killer” because it tends to do its damage quietly, without causing symptoms. To avoid hypertension, follow these steps:
Step 1: Get your blood pressure checked
The likelihood of having hypertension increases as you age, so it’s important to have your blood pressure checked on a regular basis.
The test used to measure blood pressure is simple and painless: A rubber cuff is wrapped around your upper arm and the cuff is inflated. A health professional reads your pressure on a gauge or column of mercury while using a stethoscope to listen to the sound of blood pumping through your arteries.
Step 2: Choose heart-healthy habits
While high blood pressure can’t be cured, it can be controlled by making certain changes in behavior and activities. Learn more about how to be heart healthy.
•Maintain a normal weight.
• Keep moving.
• Stop smoking.
• Shake the salt habit.
• Limit alcohol.
Step 3: Take prescribed medications
When changes in lifestyle don’t lower blood pressure, doctors may prescribe one or more antihypertensive drugs. Some of these medications work by removing excess fluid and salt in the bloodstream, others open up narrowed blood vessels and still others prevent the smallest blood vessels from narrowing.