As your heart pumps blood through your body, it exerts force on your blood vessel walls. Your blood vessels include arteries that carry blood away from your heart, tiny capillaries where oxygen is transferred to tissues, and veins that carry blood back to your heart.
We measure the pressure inside the arteries with a blood pressure cuff and use two numbers to determine your blood pressure. The systolic blood pressure (measures the pressure in your blood vessels as your heart squeezes) over the diastolic blood pressure (measures the pressure in the vessels as your heart relaxes to refill with blood). High blood pressure or “hypertension” is when the blood pressure in your arteries is too high. An ideal blood pressure is generally less than 120/80. If you have several readings above 130/80 you may have hypertension or high blood pressure.
Causes of Hypertension
There are many lifestyle factors, genetics and medical conditions that increase the risk for high blood pressure. Here are some common lifestyle factors that can play a role in your blood pressure:
- smoking or chewing tobacco
- consuming too much alcohol
- too much salt in the diet
- insufficient exercise
Hypertension does not always cause symptoms. Visiting your primary care doctor in Raleigh for your annual physical is the first step to determine and establish a baseline for your blood pressure. Uncontrolled hypertension causes your heart to work harder to pump blood throughout your body. This can lead to an increased risk of stroke, aneurysm, kidney disease, and heart attack.
Many patients control their blood pressure with lifestyle changes as the link between nutrition and hypertension is well-established.
The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet is often used to control high blood pressure. This diet emphasizes low-sodium foods, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, vegetables, and fruit while limiting foods that are high in saturated fat such as fatty meats, full-fat dairy and tropical oils, and avoiding sugar-sweetened beverages and desserts.
Following the DASH diet is an effective form of treatment and may help avoid medications or reduce the amount of medication needed to maintain a healthy blood pressure. Other lifestyle changes that can reduce and help control blood pressure include:
- reduction in alcohol consumption
- regular exercise
- stress management
- maintaining a healthy weight
- stopping smoking
There are several classifications of medications that can help you control hypertension if lifestyle and diet changes alone are not enough. For example, diuretics, also called “water pills”, cause the kidneys to release extra water and sodium from the body. Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors/angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs) promote healthy blood flow by relaxing the blood vessels while calcium channel blockers (CCBs) also cause the veins and arteries to relax.
Let’s Keep Watch Over Your Blood Pressure Together
People who check their blood pressure regularly are more likely to manage and maintain a healthy blood pressure. As a primary care doctor providing concierge medicine in Raleigh, we make it convenient and affordable to have your blood pressure checked and monitored on a regular basis.
If you suspect that your blood pressure may be high or you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, Dr. Patrick O’Connell is ready to help you create and maintain a plan that allows you to manage your blood pressure with greater confidence.