Friday, June 12, 2009

Blood Pressure

Blood pressure is the force of blood against the walls of arteries. Blood pressure is recorded as two numbers—the systolic pressure (as the heart beats) over the diastolic pressure (as the heart relaxes between beats). The measurement is written one above or before the other, with the systolic number on top and the diastolic number on the bottom. For example, a blood pressure measurement of 120/80 mmHg (millimeters of mercury) is expressed verbally as "120 over 80." Normal blood pressure is less than 120 mmHg systolic and less than 80 mmHg diastolic.

High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure increases your chance (or risk) for getting heart disease and/or kidney disease, and for having a stroke. It is especially dangerous because it often has no warning signs or symptoms. Regardless of race, age, or gender, anyone can develop high blood pressure. It is estimated that one in every four American adults has high blood pressure. Once high blood pressure develops, it usually lasts a lifetime. You can prevent and control high blood pressure by taking action.

Blood pressure rises and falls during the day. When blood pressure stays elevated over time, it is called high blood pressure. The medical term for high blood pressure is hypertension. High blood pressure is dangerous because it makes the heart work too hard and contributes to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries). It increases the risk of heart disease and stroke, which are the first- and third-leading causes of death among Americans. High blood pressure also can result in other conditions, such as congestive heart failure, kidney disease, and blindness.

A blood pressure level of 140/90 mmHg or higher is considered high. About two-thirds of people over age 65 have high blood pressure. If your blood pressure is between 120/80 mmHg and 139/89 mmHg, then you have prehypertension. This means that you don't have high blood pressure now but are likely to develop it in the future. You can take steps to prevent high blood pressure by adopting a healthy lifestyle.

Those who do not have high blood pressure at age 55 face a 90 percent chance of developing it during their lifetimes. So high blood pressure is a condition that most people have at some point in their lives.

What the Numbers Mean

Both numbers in a blood pressure test are important, but for people who are 50 or older, systolic pressure gives the most accurate diagnosis of high blood pressure. It is high if it is 140 mmHg or above.

Blood Pressure Level (mmHg)
Category Systolic Diastolic
Normal <>160 or >100

Systolic Pressure is the force of blood in the arteries as the heart beats. It is shown as the top number in a blood pressure reading. High blood pressure is 140 and higher for systolic pressure. Diastolic pressure does not need to be high for you to have high blood pressure. When that happens, the condition is called "isolated systolic hypertension," or ISH. Diastolic pressure is the force of blood in the arteries as the heart relaxes between beats. It's shown as the bottom number in a blood pressure reading.

Any form of high blood pressure is dangerous if not properly treated. Both numbers in a blood pressure test are important, but, for some, the systolic is especially meaningful. That's because, for those persons middle aged and older, systolic pressure gives a better diagnosis of high blood pressure.

If left uncontrolled, high systolic pressure can lead to stroke, heart attack, congestive heart failure, kidney damage, blindness, or other conditions. While it cannot be cured once it has developed, ISH can be controlled.

The diastolic blood pressure has been and remains, especially for younger people, an important hypertension number. The higher the diastolic blood pressure the greater the risk for heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure. As people become older, the diastolic pressure will begin to decrease and the systolic blood pressure begins to rise and becomes more important. A rise in systolic blood pressure will also increase the chance for heart attacks, strokes, and kidney failure. Your physician will use both the systolic and the diastolic blood pressure to determine your blood pressure category and appropriate prevention and treatment activities.

Why Is High Blood Pressure Important?
High blood pressure is dangerous because it makes the heart work too hard. It also makes the walls of the arteries hard. High blood pressure increases the risk for heart disease and stroke, the first- and third-leading causes of death for Americans. High blood pressure can also cause other problems, such as heart failure, kidney disease, and blindness.

Effect of High Blood Pressure on Your Body

Impaired Vision
High blood pressure can eventually cause blood vessels in the eye to burst or bleed. Vision may become blurred or otherwise impaired and can result in blindness.

High blood pressure is the most important risk factor for stroke. Very high pressure can cause a break in a weakened blood vessel, which then bleeds in the brain. This can cause a stroke. If a blood clot blocks one of the narrowed arteries, it can also cause a stroke.

As people get older, arteries throughout the body "harden," especially those in the heart, brain, and kidneys. High blood pressure is associated with these "stiffer" arteries. This, in turn, causes the heart and kidneys to work harder.

Kidney Damage
The kidneys act as filters to rid the body of wastes. Over time, high blood pressure can narrow and thicken the blood vessels of the kidneys. The kidneys filter less fluid, and waste builds up in the blood. The kidneys may fail altogether. When this happens, medical treatment (dialysis) or a kidney transplant may be needed.

Heart Attack
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart attack. The arteries bring oxygen-carrying blood to the heart muscle. If the heart cannot get enough oxygen, chest pain, also known as "angina," can occur. If the flow of blood is blocked, a heart attack results.

Congestive Heart Failure
High blood pressure is the number one risk factor for congestive heart failure (CHF). CHF is a serious condition in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood to supply the body's needs.

Massage Information
Reflexology and massage aims to relieve stress or treat health conditions through the application of pressure to specific points or areas of the feet and body. The underlying idea of reflexology is that areas of the feet and hands correspond to (and affect) other parts of the body.

Techniques similar to reflexology have been used for thousands of years in Egypt, China and other areas. In the early 20th century, an American physician named William Fitzgerald suggested that the foot could be "mapped" to other areas of the body to diagnose or treat medical conditions. He divided the body into 10 zones and labeled the parts of the foot that he believed controlled each zone. He proposed that gentle pressure on a particular area of the foot could generate relief in the targeted zone. This process was originally called zone therapy.

In the 1930s, Eunice Ingham, a nurse and physiotherapist, further developed these maps to include specific reflex points. At that time, zone therapy was renamed reflexology. Modern reflexologists in the United States often learn Ingham's method or a similar technique developed by the reflexologist Laura Norman.

Reflexology charts include pictures of the feet with diagrams of corresponding internal organs or parts of the body. The right side of the body is believed to be reflected in the right foot, and the left side, in the left foot. Different health care providers, such as massage therapists, chiropractors, podiatrists, physical therapists or nurses, may use reflexology.

Massage has many therapeutic benefits. Most notable is the ability of massage and reflexology to:

* Help relieve tension and stress
* Soothe aching muscles
* stimulate local circulation

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