What does high blood pressure have to do with heart disease?
Blood pressure is the force your blood makes against the walls of your arteries. The pressure is highest when your heart pumps blood into your arteries - when it beats. It is lowest between heart beats, when your heart relaxes. A doctor or nurse will write down your blood pressure as the higher number over the lower number. For instance, you could have a blood pressure of 110/70 (read as "110 over 70"). A blood pressure reading below 120/80 is usually considered normal. Very low blood pressure (lower than 90/60) can sometimes be a cause of concern and should be checked out by a doctor.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a blood pressure reading of 140/90 or higher. Years of high blood pressure can damage artery walls, causing them to become stiff and narrow. This includes the arteries carrying blood to the heart. As a result, your heart cannot get the blood it needs to work well. This can cause a heart attack.
A blood pressure reading of 120/80 to 139/89 is considered prehypertension. This means that you don't have high blood pressure now but are likely to develop it in the future.
How can I lower my blood pressure?
If you have hypertension or prehypertension, you may be able to lower your blood pressure by:
- Losing weight if you are overweight or obese
- Getting at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate physical activity or 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous activity each week.
- Limiting alcohol to one drink per day
- Quitting smoking if you smoke
- Reducing stress
- Cut down on salt and sodium and eat healthy foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products
If lifestyle changes do not lower your blood pressure, your doctor may prescribe medicine.