Your arteries are like pipes that carry blood from your heart to the rest of your body. High blood pressure, also called hypertension, occurs when your blood moves through your arteries at a higher pressure than normal. One in every three adult Americans or about 65 million people has high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. Many more are at risk of developing it. Over half of all Americans 60 and older have it, and over your lifetime, the risk of developing high blood pressure is 90 percent.

Blood pressure frequently increases with age. Although it can occur in younger men, the risk of developing high blood pressure begins to climb when males reach 45. African-Americans as a whole tend to develop it younger and have more severe hypertension.Obesity or a family history of high blood pressure also increases the risk of developing high blood pressure.

High blood pressure is especially dangerous because it has no symptoms, and people can have it for years without knowing. In fact, it is suspected that one in three Americans with the condition is unaware of it.

The blood pumping through your circulatory system is under pressure, similar to the water in the pipes of your house. When the force exerted against artery walls is abnormally high you have high blood pressure. We all know the eroding effect water has over time. It is capable of weakening and wearing away stone. In this case, the erosion is caused by the river of blood in your bloodstream; your artery walls are much more fragile than rocks and stone. Small bulges, called aneurysms, may form in your blood vessels. Over time, if your blood pressure is not reduced, these bulges weaken even more and may burst resulting in a heart attack or stroke.

You can make some changes in your lifestyle to reduce your High Blood Pressure. Don’t smoke cigarettes or use any tobacco product. The nicotine in cigarettes and other tobacco products causes your blood vessels to constrict and your heart to beat faster, which temporarily raises your blood pressure. If you quit smoking or using other tobacco products, you can significantly lower your risk of heart disease and heart attack, as well as help lower your blood pressure.

Lose weight if you’re overweight. If you’re overweight, losing weight usually helps lower blood pressure. Regular exercise is a good way to lose weight. It also seems to lower high blood pressure by itself.

Eat a healthy diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables and is low in fat and limit your use of the salt shaker. Not everyone is affected by sodium, but sodium can increase blood pressure in some people. Americans consume 10-15 times more sodium than they need. Don’t add salt to your food. Fast foods and processed foods contain very high amounts of sodium. Many over-the-counter medicines, such as painkillers, also contain large amounts of sodium. Read labels to find out how much sodium is contained in food items. You may not realize how much sodium is in the things you eat every day such as bread and cheese.

A sedentary lifestyle contributes to the development of obesity and high blood pressure. Obesity is defined as being 30% or more over your healthy body weight. As your body weight increases, your blood pressure rises. Obese people are 2-6 times more likely to develop high blood pressure than people whose weight is within a healthy range.

The way your body accumulates extra fat is now a cause for concern. Some people gain weight around their belly. This is called central obesity or apple-shaped people. Others store fat around their hips and thighs known as pear-shaped people. Apple-shaped people tend to have greater health risks than pear-shaped people. Your doctor will strongly recommend that obese individuals with high blood pressure lose weight until they are within 15% of their healthy body weight.

Cut back on the amount of alcohol and caffeine you drink. In some people, alcohol causes blood pressure to rise quite alarmingly. In other people, it doesn’t seem to have much effect. If you drink alcohol, limit it to no more than 1 or 2 drinks per day. One drink is a can of beer, a glass of wine or 1 jigger of liquor. If your blood pressure increases with alcohol, it’s best to avoid drinking any alcohol at all.

Stress is a part of everyone’s life. Stress may affect your blood pressure. You can ask your doctor about relaxation techniques to teach you healthier ways of dealing with stress.These techniques work best when used at least once a day. Ask your family doctor for advice.

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