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What is High Blood Pressure?

Dr. Rob discusses the danger of high blood pressure and explains how to treat it, talking about donuts and tattoos in the process.

By
Rob Lamberts, MD,
January 6, 2010
Episode #029

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What Causes High Blood Pressure?

So what makes these body parts go bad, causing high blood pressure?  Sometimes it’s not their fault, such as when the kidney gets damaged or a hormone gland fails. But for most people, it’s a combination of bad genes and bad environment that makes these body parts choose their sorry path. Bad genes can cause any or all of the control centers for blood pressure to malfunction.

How Can You Prevent High Blood Pressure?

Keep your weight under control, and if your blood pressure is even borderline, cut back on sodium and get enough potassium.

You can’t do much about bad genes besides griping, but you can do a whole lot to control environment, including the following:

Limit sodium: Eating lots of sodium can put a lot of stress on the kidneys and mess up with the epithelium. Click here for a Nutrition Diva episode that can help you there.

Lose weight: Obesity can change the hormones in the body.

Quit smoking: Smoking messes with the nerves that control the blood pressure.

Limit stress: Stress can mess with hormones and nerves.

What are the Risks of High Blood Pressure?

Often the worst consequences of dumb decisions teenagers make are not felt until much later (like that tattoo you know where). The same thing is true with blood pressure. Long-term elevation of blood pressure puts you at much higher risk of lots of bad things, such as:

  • Kidney damage, and even kidney failure requiring dialysis

  • Plaque build-up in arteries that can cause heart attacks and strokes

  • Aneurysms, which are the ballooning of blood vessels to the point where they can burst. The most significant aneurysms occur in the head and the abdomen.

  • Thickening of the heart muscle, which increases the risk of lethal heart arrhythmias.

There are others, but I think you get the picture. Go after these bad influences early or pay the consequences later.

How Should You Treat High Blood Pressure?

My quick and dirty tips today will tell you what to do about blood pressure.

Tip 1:  Get it Checked Regularly

This is the same tip I gave in my last article, but it is worth repeating. You can have dangerously high blood pressure and not know it. A good pressure to aim for is 120/70.

Tip 2: Look for Other Causes

Looking for kidney or hormone problems (with blood and urine tests) are important when hypertension is first diagnosed. This is especially important if the onset is rapid or at a young age.

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