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High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure (also called hypertension) is known as the “silent killer.” This is because most of the time it doesn’t cause symptoms. In fact, many people don’t know they have it until other problems develop. In most cases, high blood pressure can’t be cured. It’s a disease that requires lifelong treatment. The good news is that it CAN be managed.

The circulatory system is made up of the heart and blood vessels that carry blood through the body. Your heart is the pump for this system. With each heartbeat (contraction), the heart sends blood out through large blood vessels called arteries. Blood pressure is a measure of how hard the moving blood pushes against the walls of the arteries.

High blood pressure makes the heart work harder to pump blood. Frequent high blood pressure can also cause changes in the artery walls. The walls thicken and become rough, which leads to a buildup of plaque (a fatty material). This can damage the arteries. It can also reduce blood flow through the artery. If blood pressure is not controlled, all these effects can lead to serious health problems. These include heart disease, heart attack (also known as acute myocardial infarction, or AMI), stroke, kidney disease, and blindness.


If your blood pressure is extremely high, there may be certain symptoms to look out for, including:

  • Severe headache

  • Fatigue or confusion

  • Vision problems

  • Chest pain

  • Difficulty breathing

  • Irregular heartbeat

  • Blood in the urine

  • Pounding in your chest, neck, or ears

Caused by:

The exact causes of high blood pressure are not known, but several factors and conditions may play a role in its development, including:

  • Smoking

  • Being overweight or obese

  • Lack of physical activity

  • Too much salt in the diet

  • Too much alcohol consumption (more than 1 to 2 drinks per day)

  • Stress

  • Older age

  • Genetics

  • Family history of high blood pressure

  • Chronic kidney disease

  • Adrenal and thyroid disorders



If your blood pressure is too high, work with your doctor on a plan for lowering it. Below are steps you can take that will help lower your blood pressure.

  • Choose heart-healthy foods. Eating healthier meals helps you control your blood pressure. Ask your doctor about the DASH eating plan. This plan helps reduce blood pressure by limiting the amount of sodium (salt) you have in your diet.

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight makes you more likely to have high blood pressure. Losing excess weight helps lower blood pressure.

  • Exercise regularly. Daily exercise helps your heart and blood vessels work better and stay healthier. It can help lower your blood pressure.

  • Stop smoking. Smoking increases blood pressure and damages blood vessels.

  • Limit alcohol. Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure. Men should have no more than 2 drinks a day. Women should have no more than 1. (A drink is equal to 1 beer, or a small glass of wine, or a shot of liquor.)

  • Control stress. Stress makes your heart work harder and beat faster. Controlling stress helps you control your blood pressure.


Providers who treat this condition:

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