Pressure Rising

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Researchers say Americans have gotten older and fatter, putting more people at risk of stroke, heart attack or kidney failure.

A little more than a decade ago, the number was closer to one in four adults with high blood pressure.

Government researchers looked at Census Bureau and health statistics. Details are in the publication Hypertension, which is a journal of the Dallas-based American Heart Association.

Dr. Daniel Jones, University of Mississippi Medical Center's dean of the School of Medicine, an expert in high blood pressure, said the study proves Americans need to slim down and if they don't high blood pressure is one of the consequences.

The review found that about 65 million American adults now have high blood pressure, 30 percent more than the previous decade.

Experts say the aging U.S. population and the growing number of overweight and obese Americans are probably major contributors to the spike. Extended Web Coverage

Blood Pressure

  • When the heart beats, it pumps blood to the arteries and creates pressure in them – blood pressure.

  • Blood pressure results from two forces, the first force is created as blood pumps into the arteries and the second is created as the arteries resist the blood flow.

  • Hearts beat about 60 – 80 times a minute under normal conditions.

  • Your blood pressure rises with each heartbeat and fall when your heart relaxes between beats.

What do blood pressure numbers indicate?

  • The higher (systolic) number represents the pressure while the heart is beating.

  • The lower (diastolic) number represents the pressure when the heart is resting between beats.

  • The systolic pressure is always stated first and the diastolic pressure second. Example: 122/76, said as 122 over 76.

  • Blood pressure of less than 140 over 90 is considered a normal reading for adults.

What Causes High Blood Pressure?

  • In 90 to 95 percent of high blood pressure cases, the cause is unknown.

  • Factors that may lead to high blood pressure in the remaining 5-10 percent of cases include, kidney abnormality, large blood vessel leaving the heart, narrowing of certain arteries.

  • High blood pressure adds to the workload of your heart and arteries. Your heart must pump harder.

  • There is increased risk of stroke, congestive heart failure, kidney failure and heart attack. When high blood pressure exists with obesity, smoking, high blood cholesterol levels or diabetes, the risk of heart attack or stroke increases several times.

Low Blood Pressure

  • Within certain limits, the lower your blood pressure reading is, the better.

  • It is possible for blood pressure to be too low. This may cause certain nerve disorders or endocrine disorders, prolonged bed rest, decreases in blood volume due to severe bleeding (hemorrhage_ or dehydration.

How do you treat abnormal blood pressure?

  • High blood pressure is a lifelong disease. It can be controlled but not cured.

  • The first thing to do is to have your blood pressure checked.

  • Treatment for high blood pressure may include a low-fat diet, a low-salt diet, and changes in your living habits such as losing weight and getting more exercise. Quitting smoking is also important to reduce your overall risk for heart attack and stroke.

  • Many medicines also can help reduce and control high blood pressure.

  • Always consult your physician to find out what type of treatment will work best for your body.

Source: contributed to this report.