Blood pressure refers to the amount of pressure or force needed to pump the blood from the heart throughout the rest of the body in order to provide organs and other tissues with a steady supply of oxygen and important nutrients. Normally, blood pressure remains within a certain range. When it exceeds that range, it's called high blood pressure, and without proper treatment and ongoing management, the increased pressure can cause damage to organs and blood vessels as well as increasing the risks for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. High blood pressure is also referred to as hypertension.
High blood pressure can be caused by different issues, including heart disease, obesity, older age, smoking and consuming a diet that's high in unhealthy fats and low in fiber. Often, high blood pressure occurs when the arteries that carry blood away from the heart become narrowed as a result of a buildup of plaque, a sticky substance in the blood that adheres to the walls of vessels, causing them to become narrower and less flexible. That means higher pressure is needed to keep the blood flowing. People with diabetes are also at an increased risk for high blood pressure, and some medications can also raise blood pressure to unhealthy levels.
Hypertension causes few symptoms until serious events like heart attack or stroke occur. Fortunately, it can be easily diagnosed with regular screenings using a blood pressure cuff to measure the force of blood as it moves through the vessels. Having your blood pressure monitored on a regular basis is the best way to identify high blood pressure in its earliest stages so treatment can begin as soon as possible.
Sometimes, high blood pressure can be treated with lifestyle changes, like losing weight, quitting smoking, eating a healthier diet and being more physically active. Learning to manage stress can also help. Other times, medication may be necessary to help keep blood pressure under control.