High blood pressure (also known as hypertension) is another risk factor for cardiovascular disease. About 50 million American adults have high blood pressure. The top number of a blood pressure reading, called the systolic pressure, represents the force of blood in the arteries as the heart beats. The bottom number, called diastolic pressure, is the force of blood in the arteries as the heart relaxes between beats. High blood pressure makes the heart work extra hard and hardens artery walls, increasing the risk of heart disease and stroke.
A blood pressure level of 140/90 mmHg (millimeters of mercury) or higher is considered high. Any readings that are above 120/80 mmHg but below high blood pressure levels are considered to be at the "pre-hypertension" level.
People with high blood pressure often have no symptoms, so have your blood pressure checked every one to two years. If you have high blood pressure, your doctor may suggest that you make some lifestyle changes to improve your cardiovascular health, such as eating less salt (see DASH Diet) and exercising more. Your doctor may also prescribe medicine to help lower blood pressure.
(Click Lowering Blood Pressure for more information.)
Atrial fibrillation is an irregular beating of the heart. It can cause clots that can lead to stroke. People who have atrial fibrillation are five times more likely to have a stroke than people who have a normal heart rhythm. The recommended treatment will depend on the severity of the condition. Treatment options can include:
- Lifestyle changes
- Atrial fibrillation medications
- Cardioversion, which uses chemicals (chemical cardioversion) or electricity (electrical cardioversion) to bring the heart back into a normal rhythm.