High Blood Pressure Treatment

Medical Author:
Medical Editor:

What is high blood pressure (hypertension)?

High blood pressure or hypertension means high pressure (tension) in the arteries. Arteries are vessels that carry blood from the pumping heart to all the tissues and organs of the body. High blood pressure does not mean excessive emotional tension, although emotional tension and stress can temporarily increase blood pressure. Normal blood pressure is below 120/80; blood pressure between 120/80 and 139/89 is called "pre-hypertension," and a blood pressure of 140/90 or above is considered high.

The top number, which is the systolic blood pressure, corresponds to the pressure in the arteries as the heart contracts and pumps blood into the arteries. The bottom number, the diastolic pressure, represents the pressure in the arteries as the heart relaxes after the contraction. The diastolic pressure reflects the lowest pressure to which the arteries are exposed.

An elevation of the systolic and/or diastolic blood pressure increases the risk of developing heart (cardiac) disease, kidney (renal) disease, hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis or arteriosclerosis), eye damage, and stroke (brain damage). These complications of hypertension are often referred to as end-organ damage because damage to these organs is the end result of chronic (long duration) high blood pressure. For that reason, the diagnosis of high blood pressure is important so efforts can be made to normalize blood pressure and prevent complications.

It was previously thought that rises in diastolic blood pressure were a more important risk factor than systolic elevations, but it is now known that in people 50 years of age and older systolic hypertension represents a greater risk.

The American Heart Association estimates high blood pressure affects approximately one in three adults in the U.S. High blood pressure also is estimated to affect about two million U.S. teens and children, and the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that many are underdiagnosed. Hypertension is clearly a major public health problem.

Picture of the systolic and diastolic pressure systems of blood pressure measurement.
Picture of the systolic and diastolic pressure systems of blood pressure measurement.
Picture of high blood pressure.
Picture of high blood pressure.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/11/2012

Patient Comments

Viewers share their comments

High Blood Pressure Treatment - Experience Question: What kinds of treatments have been effective for your high blood pressure?
High Blood Pressure Treatment - Diet Question: Did you add or eliminate certain foods from your diet to control your high blood pressure? Did it help?
High Blood Pressure Treatment - Smoking Question: Are you a smoker or former smoker undergoing treatment for high blood pressure? After diagnosis, did you quit smoking?
High Blood Pressure Treatment - Alcohol Question: Do you have hypertension and also drink alcohol? Have you cut back since receiving a diagnosis?
High Blood Pressure Treatment - Coffee and Caffeine Question: In what ways do coffee and other caffeinated beverages affect your blood pressure?
High Blood Pressure Treatment - Medications Question: What medications and other types of treatment do you receive for hypertension?
High Blood Pressure Treatment - Alternative Medicine Question: Describe any alternative or complementary medicine you use to treat your high blood pressure.

High Blood Pressure Treatment: Food

Research has shown that following a healthy eating plan can both reduce the risk of developing high blood pressure and lower an already elevated blood pressure.

For an overall eating plan, consider the DASH eating plan. "DASH" stands for "Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension," a clinical study that tested the effects of nutrients in food on blood pressure. Study results indicated that elevated blood pressures were reduced by an eating plan that emphasizes fruits, vegetables, and lowfat dairy foods and is low in saturated fat, total fat, and cholesterol. The DASH eating plan includes whole grains, poultry, fish, and nuts and has reduced amounts of fats, red meats, sweets, and sugared beverages.

A second clinical study, called "DASH-Sodium," looked at the effect of a reduced dietary sodium intake on blood pressure as people followed either the DASH eating plan or a typical American diet. Results showed that reducing dietary sodium lowered blood pressure for both the DASH eating plan and the typical American diet. The biggest blood pressure-lowering benefits were for those eating the DASH eating plan at the lowest sodium level (1,500 milligrams per day).

The DASH-Sodium study shows the importance of lowering sodium intake whatever your diet. But for a true winning combination, follow the DASH eating plan and lower your intake of salt and sodium.

SOURCE:
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.


STAY INFORMED

Get the Latest health and medical information delivered direct to your inbox!