High blood pressure is a condition that puts you at risk for both short and long term disease risks. But the most serious risks include heart attack, stroke, and kidney disease. Other than occasional headaches most people with high blood pressure are unaware of their problems. You may be told your blood pressure is “130 over 80.” The top number is the pressure inside your arteries when your heart is contracting. The bottom number is the pressure inside your arteries when your heart is relaxed.

To lower your blood pressure we advocate one or more of these strategies:

●Lose weight (if you are overweight)●Choose a diet low in fat and rich in fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy products●Reduce the amount of salt you eat●Do something active for at least 30 minutes a day on most days of the week●Optimize hormones●Reduce stress●Normalize sleep●Cut down on alcohol (if you drink more than 2 alcoholic drinks per day)

A high blood pressure can occur rapidly and go very high precipitating a blood pressure emergency which can be life-threatening -180/120 or worse. When a person’s blood pressure gets very high, it can lead to problems in one or more of the following organs:●Eyes – Problems can include bleeding in the back of the eye, or swelling of the nerve that runs from the eye to the brain.●Brain – Problems can include swelling or bleeding in the brain, or a stroke. A stroke is when a part of the brain is damaged because of a problem with blood flow.●Kidneys – Very high blood pressure can lead to kidney failure, which is when the kidneys stop working.●Heart – Heart problems can include a heart attack, heart failure, or damage to a major blood vessel.

The symptoms of a blood pressure emergency depend on the organ or organs affected. They can include:●Blurry vision or other vision changes●Headache●Nausea or vomiting●Confusion●Passing out or seizures – Seizures are waves of abnormal electrical activity in the brain that can make people move or behave strangely.●Weakness or numbness on one side of the body, or in one arm or leg●Difficulty talking●Trouble breathing●Chest pain●Pain in the upper back or between the shoulders ●Urine that is brown or bloody●Pain in the lower back or on the side of the body

It’s also a good idea to get a home blood pressure meter. People who check their own blood pressure at home do better at keeping it low and can sometimes even reduce the amount of medicine they take.

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Suzanne Trupin, MD, Board Certified Obstetrician and Gynecologist and owner of Women's Health Practice, Hada Cosmetic Medicine, and Hatha Yoga and Fitness

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