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Controlling Your Blood Pressure

Posted on February 5th, 2016

We all know that high blood pressure is a bad thing. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), uncontrolled high blood pressure is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke. More than 67 million Americans have high blood pressure, sometimes referred to as hypertension. Of that group, 16 million are receiving treatment, but their blood pressure still remains too high. There are often no symptoms, so it's crucial to not only get regular screenings, but also to understand what high blood pressure really is and how to control it.

A Quick Lesson in Hypertension

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NIH) defines high blood pressure/hypertension as a disease in which blood flows through blood vessels (arteries) at higher than normal pressure. As the heart pumps the blood, it pushes against the walls of the arteries. If the force is too high, it's considered high blood pressure. There are two main types of high blood pressure – primary and secondary:

  • Primary, or essential, high blood pressure is the most common and tends to develop over years as a person ages.
  • Secondary high blood pressure is caused by another medical condition or use of certain medicines. This type is usually resolved after the cause is treated or removed.

How to Maintain Control

While not everyone experiences symptoms, be aware of common signs such as severe headaches, fatigue or confusion, vision problems, chest pain, difficulty breathing, irregular heartbeat, blood in your urine and pounding in your chest, neck or ears. Get tested regularly, and limit your risk factors like obesity, excessive alcohol and smoking. Family history can also play a role.

WebMD provides the following tips for preventing high blood pressure:

  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Getting regular exercise
  • Reducing salt intake
  • Drinking alcohol in moderation, if at all
  • Reducing stress
  • Eating a nutrient-rich diet, especially potassium, calcium and magnesium

Extensive research has been done on the effects of diet on hypertension, and in fact, a specific diet has been designed to help control it. The DASH diet, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, is a lifelong approach to healthy eating intended to help treat or prevent high blood pressure. The DASH diet encourages eating a variety of healthy foods in order to get the right amount of nutrients, all while maintaining proper portion sizes. The Mayo Clinic recommends the following food group servings for the standard 2000-calorie-a-day DASH diet:

  • Grains: 6 to 8 servings a day
  • Vegetables: 4 to 5 servings a day
  • Fruits: 4 to 5 servings a day
  • Dairy: 2 to 3 servings a day
  • Lean meat, poultry and fish: 6 or fewer servings a day
  • Nuts, seeds and legumes: 4 to 5 servings a week
  • Fats and oils: 2 to 3 servings a day
  • Sweets: 5 or fewer a week


Above all, pay attention to your body and treat it well, know the signs and symptoms of high blood pressure, and always consult your doctor with any concerns or before beginning any new diet, exercise program or treatment.

This article has been provided for educational purposes only and is based on the most reliable information available on the date of publication.

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