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The Hunger Project Bolen Report
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Blood Pressure Print E-mail

Dr. Kennedy Blood pressure is the is the pressure of the blood within the arteries. It is produced primarily by the contraction of the heart muscle and is modulated by the expansibility of the vascular system (which is decreased in arteriosclerosis). It is recorded by two numbers. The first (systolic pressure) is measured after the heart contracts and is highest. The second (diastolic pressure) is measured before the heart contracts and lowest. A blood pressure cuff is used to measure the pressure.

Elevation of blood pressure is called "hypertension." Hypertension is, by definition, a repeatedly elevated blood pressure exceeding 140 over 90 mmHg - a systolic pressure above 140 with a diastolic pressure above 90. Chronic hypertension is a "silent" condition. It can cause blood vessel changes in the back of the eye (retina), abnormal thickening of the heart muscle, kidney failure, and brain damage. For diagnosis, there is no substitute for measurement of blood pressure. No specific cause for hypertension is found in 95% of cases. High blood pressure is treated with regular aerobic exercise, weight reduction (if overweight), salt restriction, low fat diet and failing all else, medications.

Low blood pressure is any blood pressure that is below the normal expected for an individual in a given environment. Low blood pressure is also referred to as hypotension. Low blood pressure is a relative term because the blood pressure normally varies greatly with activity, age, medications, and underlying medical conditions. Low blood pressure can result from conditions of the nervous system, conditions that do not begin in the nervous system, and drugs. Neurologic conditions that can lead to low blood pressure include changing position from lying to more vertical (postural hypotension), stroke, shock, lightheadedness after urinating or defecating, Parkinson's disease, neuropathy and simply fright. Nonneurologic conditions that can cause low blood pressure include bleeding, infections, dehydration, heart disease, adrenal insufficiency, pregnancy, prolonged bed rest, poisoning, toxic shock syndrome, and blood transfusion reactions. Hypotensive drugs include blood pressure drugs, diuretics (water pills), heart medications (especially calcium antagonists such as nifedipine (Procardia), beta blockers such as propranolol (Inderal), depression medications such as amitriptyline (Elavil) (and many others) and alcohol.



The information in this article is not meant to be medical advice.�Treatment for a medical condition should come at the recommendation of your personal physician.

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