Blood pressure is the force of the blood pushing against the walls of the body's arteries. Consistently high blood pressure, or hypertension, is dangerous to a person's health. High blood pressure is defined in an adult as consistent pressure greater than or equal to 140 mm/Hg systolic pressure (pressure that occurs when the heart contracts) over 90 mm/Hg diastolic pressure (reduced pressure when the heart relaxes). The more trouble the blood has flowing through the arteries, the higher the numbers will be. When left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to arteriosclerosis, heart attack, an enlarged heart, kidney damage and stroke.
Because high blood pressure has no easily recognized symptoms, the only way it can be diagnosed is to have blood pressure checked. The blood pressure test is painless, using a rubber cuff that is inflated with air to compress the artery in the upper arm and monitor the pressure in the artery. The more difficult it is for blood to flow through the compressed artery, the higher the blood pressure reading will be.
In most cases, high blood pressure cannot be cured, but it can be controlled. Lifestyle factors are the first line of defense, including maintaining a healthy weight, engaging in regular exercise, choosing foods that are lower in sodium, reducing alcohol use to low or moderate levels, identifying stressors, and utilization of complementary and alternative therapies.
If lifestyle management is not effective at lowering a patient's pressure, a number of prescription medications are also available. Our heart health experts work with patients to develop a treatment plan featuring the drugs proven to be most effective at relaxing and opening up the narrowed blood vessels and lowering blood pressure.
Each month the Mission Hospital Cardiac Rehab Center staff offers patient seminars on nutrition, exercise and stress reduction to help those individuals with coronary artery disease and high blood pressure to more effectively manage their condition.