5 Causes of High Blood Pressure & An Eating Plan To Help Lower Your Numbers

Steer clear of canned soup and that extra glass of wine.

5 Causes of High Blood Pressure & An Eating Plan To Help Lower Your Numbers

By Toni Gasparis

Are you always confused by the numbers you hear when your blood pressure is taken? High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a result of many different factors that make it harder for your heart to pump blood throughout your body. This disruption in the body can lead to a heart attack or a stroke. In order to avoid these serious health conditions, as well as others, it's important to know exactly what causes high blood pressure.


Some things may surprise you. It turns out that some of your everyday habits could be the culprit. While knowing your family history is important, factors like what you eat and how often you exercise can help or harm your body. Take a look at these five reasons your blood pressure could be high so you can make informed lifestyle choices to decrease it. Plus, learn about the eating plan that can help lower your numbers. Always remember to get your blood pressure checked at your yearly physical — and if the numbers confuse you, ask the doctor to clarify.

Understanding High Blood Pressure

Before you know some of the causes of hypertension, you should familiarize yourself with the basics. You may have noticed that at your annual physical your doctor takes your blood pressure by placing an arm cuff on you, pumping air into the cuff, and then releasing it. A normal blood pressure reading is 120/80 or less (but not too low). When the numbers are higher than that your physician may want to monitor you or have extra tests done. The first number in a blood pressure reading is the systolic number which indicates how much blood is pressuring your arteries while your heart is beating. The second number is the diastolic number which indicates how much blood is pressuring your arteries in between heartbeats. Higher numbers indicate the blood is not properly pumping and is instead causing stress on your arteries which can lead to dangerous health problems in the future.

More: How to Track Your Blood Pressure

Your Parent Has Dementia: What to Talk to Their Doctor About

Make sure all their doctors are aware of all the medications she is taking.

Q: My mom is 94 and has dementia. She is taking a whole medicine cabinet-full of medications and I think they actually make her fuzzier. How should I talk to her various doctors about what she is taking and if she can get off some of the meds? — Gary R., Denver, Colorado

A: Many dementia patients are taking what docs call a "polypharmacy" — three or more medications that affect their central nervous system. And we really don't know how that mixture truly affects each individual person.

A new study in JAMA Network that looked at more than 1 million Medicare patients found almost 14% of them were taking a potentially harmful mix of antidepressants, antipsychotics, antiepileptics, benzodiazepines such as Valium and Ativan, nonbenzodiazepine benzodiazepine receptor agonist hypnotics such as Ambien or Sonata, and opioids. And almost a third of those folks were taking five or more such medications. The most common medication combination included an antidepressant, an antiepileptic, and an antipsychotic. Gabapentin was the most common medication — often for off-label uses, such as to ease chronic pain or treat psychiatric disorders, according to the researchers from the University of Michigan.

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