Blood Pressure and Health
Blood pressure is a factor in several of the most common conditions people develop as they grow older. Studies on health and high blood pressure have shown that preventing hypertension can reduce the chances of developing life-threatening conditions, such as heart attacks, strokes, and chronic kidney failure. Blood Pressure : Blood pressure is the pressure inside your blood vessels, both as your heart is pumping blood through them and while the heart is relaxed. If too high, the condition can cause health problems, so keeping your blood pressure at a proper level is essential.
While 120/80 is considered normal, it usually varies within a certain range, so it’s best to use more than one reading to determine your average.
Blood pressure is the amount of force (pressure) that blood exerts on the walls of the vessels as it passes through them.
As blood is pumped from your heart into your blood vessels, enough pressure is created to send it to all other parts of your body. As blood vessels travel away from the heart, they branch off and gradually get smaller, just like the branches of a tree. One branch may go to the brain, while another may go to your kidneys. Blood pressure keeps the blood flowing through all these branches so your body’s cells get the oxygen and nutrients they need.
Statistics on Health and High Blood Pressure
To get started, let’s consider these numbers:
More than 65 million American adults — 1 in 3 — have high blood pressure
- Nearly 60 million Americans are over age 55, which means they have a 90 percent likelihood of developing high blood pressure in their lifetimes
- African Americans are more likely to develop high blood pressure than any other racial or ethnic group, and tend to develop it earlier and more severely thanothers
- 18 million Americans have diabetes, which increases their chances of developing high blood pressure
- 122 million American adults are overweight or obese, which is a risk factor for developing high blood pressure
Why Is High Blood Pressure a Health Concern?
Hypertension is a health concern because it is a factor in a number of the most common conditions people develop as they get older. Preventing high blood pressure can reduce the chances of a person developing these life-threatening or life-altering conditions. Consider the following facts:
High blood pressure is a factor in 67 percent of heart attacks in the United States
- High blood pressure is the second leading cause of chronic kidney failure in the United States — responsible for 26 percent of all cases
- High blood pressure is a factor in 77 percent of strokes — the third leading cause of death in the United States
- High blood pressure affects circulation — creating a higher risk for mental deterioration and Alzheimer’s disease
- High blood pressure precedes 74 percent of cases of heart failure in the United States
- High blood pressure causes more visits to doctors than any other condition — just a 10 percent decline in the number of visits would save $478 million each year
- High blood pressure and its complications cost the U.S. economy more than $100 billion each year.
Reducing controllable risk factors is important for preventing high blood pressure. In fact, lifestyle changes that affect these risk factors can not only help prevent high blood pressure, but in those who already have the condition, these lifestyle changes can help lower blood pressure.
Some of these lifestyle changes may include:
- Losing weight
- Eating more vegetables, fruits, and low-fat dairy foods
- Reducing the salt in your diet
- Drinking less alcohol.
It may take three to six months before you see the full benefit of lifestyle changes. Also, adopting a healthy lifestyle does not guarantee that you will not develop high blood pressure. Unfortunately, the risk factors that you cannot control (such as age, ethnicity, and family history) will influence the chance of developing high blood pressure as well. Adopting a healthy lifestyle and reducing risk factors can (in most cases) cause your blood pressure to be less than it would be otherwise.