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High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is a common condition. Almost one in three adults and two out of three people with diabetes report having high blood pressure or take prescription medications to lower their blood pressure. High blood pressure (also called hypertension) is caused when the force of the blood being pumped by your heart through your arteries is too high. If not treated this may eventually result in health problems such as heart disease. Blood pressure depends on the amount of blood your heart pumps and the extent of blood flow resistance in your arteries. If your arteries become constricted in any way by disease or if your heart pumps a larger amount of blood (such as when you are exercising), your blood pressure will be higher.

Even if you have high blood pressure, you may not have any symptoms. But even if you have no symptoms, damage from high blood pressure can cause damage to your blood vessels. Your family doctor usually measures your blood pressure during routine appointments, as a regular step to determine the state of your health. If your doctor diagnoses hypertension, something can be done to reduce the risk of potential health problems such as heart attack, stroke, diabetes, eye problems and kidney disease. High blood pressure will not go away unless it is treated. Treatments for high blood pressure include lifestyle changes (such as quitting smoking, exercising more, or losing weight), or medications that your doctor can prescribe.

Measuring Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is a measure of the force of blood flowing inside your blood vessels. Your portable blood pressure unit will report your blood pressure as two numbers. For example, you might see a number such as 125/85. In reporting this you or your doctor would say "125 over 85."

The first number (in this case 125) reports the pressure when your heart beats and pushes blood through your blood vessels. This is called the "systolic" pressure. The second number (in this case 85) is called the "diastolic" pressure and is a measure of the pressure when your blood vessels relax between heartbeats.

Blood Pressure Numbers

• Generally speaking, your blood pressure is healthy if it is below 120/80.
• Early signs of high blood pressure are in the zone between 120/80 and 140/90.
• Your blood pressure is high if it is above 140/90

Because high blood pressure is a silent problem, you won't know you have it unless your doctor checks it for you or if you find it by checking regularly with your portable blood pressure unit.

Tips to Help Reduce High Blood Pressure

• Work out a treatment plan with your physician.
• If you smoke, get help to quit.
• Check food labels and choose low sodium foods with 400 mg of sodium or less per serving.
• Use herbs and spices for food flavouring instead of salt.
• Limit alcohol consumption or quit drinking alcohol altogether.
• If you are overweight, lose weight; or prevent weight gain if your weight is normal.
• Switch to whole-grain breads and cereals.
• Your physician may prescribe medications to help reduce your high blood pressure. Be sure to take medications as directed until or if your doctor changes your prescription.