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High blood pressure has consequences for your heart

NEW ALBANY, Ind. — High blood pressure is often associated with stroke risk and affects your heart health. High blood pressure – also known as hypertension – is linked to heart attack, heart failure and chest pain (angina) if unchecked or undetected.

“Keeping your blood pressure within a certain range for your age and gender is important,” said Surender Sandella, MD, a cardiologist at Baptist Health Floyd. “If your blood pressure is too high, your blood vessels, heart, brain and other organs may be damaged. If too low, critical organs such as your brain may not get sufficient blood flow.”

Historically, a 120/80 has been considered “normal.” More recent advice calls for slightly lower readings.

“The right blood pressure for you is based upon many factors. And conditions such as cold weather can temporarily affect your blood pressure,” Dr. Sandella added.

The best prevention for high blood pressure is knowing your numbers and making lifestyle changes that matter, such as eating a well-balanced diet low in salt, limiting alcohol, regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, quitting smoking, taking your medications as prescribed and working with your healthcare provider.

Medications can also help keep your blood pressure in check.

Taking your blood pressure

You can take your blood pressure regularly at home using an automatic blood pressure cuff, easily purchased from online retailers or many big box stores. To obtain the most accurate readings, buy a cuff around your upper arm. Before taking the reading, avoid caffeine and alcohol for at least a half hour, and sit calmly for five minutes.

Seat yourself comfortably in a chair with your back supported, feet on the floor and legs uncrossed. Your arm should be supported at about the level of your heart. It is recommended to take a pair of blood pressure readings – a few minutes apart – and average them. If the two readings are significantly different, try a third and average the three.

A reading of over 130/80 or higher means you are more likely to have a heart attack or stroke.

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